Far too many residents do not understand Crestwood’s fiscal struggles

To the editor:

The Call covered Crestwood in 1998 when the city annexed 699 homes from unincorporated St. Louis County in the Affton Fire Protection District.

State law required Crestwood to pay the fire district for the cost of fire service on those homes. In 2003, the annual bill was $286,400. In 2012, that cost increased to $450,000.

Crestwood is a small city — 3.6 square miles. Our mall was losing shoppers by 2003. The city went into debt by $24 million when bond-like certificates were issued for a new aquatic center and a planned new police building.

The city’s voters requested a state audit of Crestwood’s finances when city officials could not close the city’s financial books in 2003 or 2004 while using a $1.5 million bank letter of credit to pay service costs.

A new mayor was elected in 2005, voters stopped the police building by 2006 and updated accounting of the city’s finances were put online. Voters passed a 20-­cent tax-rate increase to pay off a $3.5 million debt from the police building design and to free credit liens on city property.

In April 2011, a new mayor was elected, and in 2013, the city’s mall shut down as Crestwood continued to cut staff and costs.

Far too many residents do not understand that Crestwood now struggles to pay for services. For fiscal 2007, the city had a surplus of $1,132,095 after paying $1,694,093 in bond principal and interest.

In 2012, Crestwood was debt free. Yet at the end of the third quarter in 2013, the city indicates a loss of $690,921.

I’m not sure what level of cuts are needed to maintain the city services our residents expect.

John Foote

Crestwood

Editor’s note: Mr. Foote is a former Ward 4 Crestwood alderman.