South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Sunset Hills could create “separate” Prop P fund


The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen could create a separate budget fund for money from Proposition P, the half-cent sales tax St. Louis County voters approved in April 2017 to fund police and public safety.

At a meeting last month, aldermen directed city staff to draft an ordinance creating a separate fund for Prop P revenue in the city’s budget, similar to how the budget shows the breakdown for the general fund, capital fund and so on.

Additionally, aldermen also directed staff to draft a memo regarding other municipalities’ best practices when it came to how they reported Prop P money in their respective budgets.

That ordinance for a separate Prop P fund is slated for a first reading at the board meeting tomorrow, July 13.

The effort was in part spearheaded by Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson, who sits on the Police Advisory Board. Epperson had introduced and then pulled a resolution that would have specifically directed the money from the new 911 dispatching agreement with Crestwood that went into effect July 1 to fund a police pay matrix, which the board passed earlier at the June 8 meeting.

“The spirit that I brought it forward was to ensure that there was no possibility of misdirecting these funds, and the reason I bring that up is because there’s been less than perfect accounting from the Prop funds that we received from the county, which was passed by the voters for a very specific reason,” said Epperson. “I would like to have a resolution addressing Prop P prepared for a future meeting that will ensure that no future decision makers within the city can take that money from Prop P and not track it accurately into the Police Department like by law it was passed to do by a vote of the country residents.”

The revenues and expenditures related to Prop P funds are tracked through a spreadsheet put together by Finance Director Susanna Messmer, but Prop P funds are not explicitly stated in the budget like the stormwater tax or capital improvement tax.

Messmer said she spoke with the city’s auditors, who told her that the city was 100-percent compliant in reporting Prop P funds.

“The county resolution is not specific. It just required that the spending is on public safety. It seems like every city, every person, has a different opinion about how this should be handled,” said Messmer. “When we first got Prop P money, there was no restriction by the board at the time, therefore it was just put into the general fund.”

Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong said he would like to explore how other municipalities report their Prop P money.

“I want to know all the options,” said Wong. “… But because I don’t think it’s being handled in the spirit that Prop P was

passed … I think the logical answer is we create a separate Prop P fund so we can trace the money coming in and out.”

Epperson clarified that the reason he brought the idea forward was to ensure transparency, not because he thought that the city was inaccurately reporting or misdirecting Prop P funds.

“I don’t think anyone’s accusing our bookkeeping system of doing anything illegal. … The spirit of this conversation is to ensure the transparency of these funds at which they were intended,” said Epperson. “It’s not a matter of making sure they’re in the right section of the balance sheet. It’s tracking. It’s letting everybody that’s paying for it, that’s voted for it (know) this is going toward the Police Department in such and such manner.”

Over the years since Prop P was passed, the city has received between $400,000 and $460,000 in gross revenue. Some of that was directed toward police officer pay raises in 2017.

“It’s substantial enough income, it should have it’s own separate fund. It’s close to half a million,” Epperson said.

After some further discussion, the board directed City Administrator Brittany Gillett by voice vote to draft a memo outlining how other municipalities report their Prop P funds, in addition to City Attorney Robert E. Jones drafting an ordinance specifically creating a separate Prop P fund within the city’s budget.

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