Proposition P sales tax alarms former Mehlville school board member

To the editor:

The city of St. Louis was a great place to live and work during the first half of the 20th century.

Then, circa 1950, the city of St. Louis approved and levied a 1-percent income tax. The population peaked and began a steep decline from nearly 1 million residents to about a quarter of that number today. Three out of every four residents decided to leave the city.

St. Louis County certainly benefited from the city earnings tax. The county grew and prospered during the second half of the 20th century. The county does not levy an income tax, but now County Executive Steve Stenger has proposed a new sales tax, under the auspices of Proposition P, for police. It’s brilliant marketing, actually. Ever since Ferguson, support for the police has become more publicly visible with signs and blue lights.

Why not use that popularity to sell a new tax? It certainly sounds much better than Proposition SS for Stenger Slush fund.

Now we can all agree that we support the police, but is this really the only way to give them a raise? Perhaps the county should make the police a higher priority? I’ve seen the wording in this proposal and it is not specific as to what we’re getting from this tax and there is no guarantee that the county will not back out money originally budgeted for the police after this tax increase passes, as happened with the casino money for education.

But beyond the question of whether or not the money will actually go to the police is the question of what another tax increase will do to the county. Thanks to creeping tax increases on property and sales, it’s getting expensive to live and work in St. Louis County. Property taxes are beyond the scope of this letter.

but that’s before additional taxes levied by most municipalities. In Sunset Hills, Kirkwood, and Crestwood the sales tax rate is 8.613 percent.

In most parts of Green Park it’s “only” 7.613 percent, but in Des Peres it’s 9.613 percent. Add another half-cent and you are approaching the 10-percent mark in much of St. Louis County.

When sales taxes go up, more sales are made elsewhere. When sales go elsewhere, so do businesses and jobs. When that happens, people gradually move elsewhere over time or drive more of the economy underground. Of course, that causes a need for more police as economic activity decreases and crime increases.

In the short term, the new tax means the St. Louis County police will get a raise. But in the longer term, the biggest beneficiaries of increased taxes in St. Louis County will be Jefferson County, St. Charles County and Franklin County, all of which will have lower taxes.