Crestwood’s Proposition C not a SMART tax, former alderman says

To the editor:

America fought a war against taxation without representation.

We won. We got taxation with representation. What a prize that turned out to be. Yet everywhere we turn, another proposed tax levy jumps out at us.

The city of Crestwood handed over $25 million in tax subsidies to UrbanStreet Group to build what? We don’t know and may not know until 2028, according to Crestwood City Administrator Kris Simpson. To compensate for this outrageous subsidy, the city is now pushing to increase residential property taxes by 45 cents per $100 assessed evaluation — the estimated initial cost per household is $250 to $300 for just the first year. Our contribution will increase substantially as property values increase.

Loss of such diverted revenue has consequences elsewhere as well. Lindbergh Schools will no doubt attempt to reclaim some of the UrbanStreet tax-diverted money by requesting a tax increase. The Lindbergh teachers’ union is already clamoring for one for salaries, and will likely get it if its endorsed board candidates win election.

In addition, St. Louis County is asking for approval of a half-cent sales tax to fund police initiatives. Part of that amount will be shared with municipalities throughout the county.

We need to stand up against the push for high taxes by our elected officials who don’t even understand the fundamentals of what makes a tax increase more acceptable in the eyes of their own constituents. Before you vote on the Crestwood property tax proposal increase, ask yourself first if it is a SMART tax. What is a SMART tax?

What are the exact tax dollars you require and what specifically will you spend them on?

. How will you ensure tax rates will be lowered as property assessments increase, allowing the initial funds you expected are maintained but not unduly increased when assessed property values rise?

. Have existing funds been spent wisely? Tax subsidies for the The Barn Restaurant, adopting an unsustainable federalized pay plan, a needless Beautification Committee that has shown little for the city funds allocated to it, rejecting new business license applications, and more show that the city has failed to grasp the need to operate its budget efficiently. Recent expenditures on high-priced office furnishings and a $3,000 raise for Mr. Simpson don’t help either.

Is this tax a good fit for our residential real estate base, which is heavily represented by seniors and increasingly more families with young kids? Today, low property taxes combined with a top-rated school district have made our community attractive to a new generation of homeowners. Low property taxes permit new residents to invest in upgrading their homes rather than merely using the remaining life and moving out when the children have graduated. Higher taxes decrease the amount of money available for housing maintenance and updates.

When will you end the tax? According to Kris Simpson, the requirement for an infusion of additional money ends after four years. If that is the case, the tax ought to have a stated expiration or “sunset” date allowing the voters to either renew or reject it. The vast majority of Crestwood voters supported the Prop S temporary tax increase because it was a SMART tax.

Crestwood Proposition C is anything but a SMART tax. Please join me in voting against Prop C on April 4.