Voters reject four of five countywide proposals

County residents vote down sales-tax increase for Metro

By BURKE WASSON

County voters last week rejected four of five countywide ballot measures.

More than 51 percent of county voters rejected Proposition M, a proposed half-cent sales tax that would have raised $80 million a year to be split evenly to fund Metro maintenance of public-transportation systems and construct light-rail ex-pansion to Florissant and Westport. The measure received 264,255 “no” votes and 248,338 “yes” votes.

Metro officials have said without additional funding from Prop M, the transit agency would be forced to reduce its service for both MetroLink and MetroBus.

Metro President and CEO Robert Baer is expected to meet with County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Clair (Ill.) County Board Chairman Mark Kern to examine possible cuts. The Metro board then will vote in December on which service cuts to implement.

Before the Nov. 4 election, Metro officials said if Prop M failed, the light-rail line would see a 42-percent overall service reduction, trains would run every 15 minutes rather than every 10 minutes during peak hours, service would stop after 8 p.m., service in non-rush hours would operate every 20 minutes instead of every 15 minutes and service would run only between Shrewsbury and Forest Park in non-rush hours.

Metro officials said MetroBus would have a 57-percent overall reduction, up to 28 of the 60 existing MetroBus routes would be eliminated, routes outside of Interstate 270 and all night service would be eliminated and many remaining MetroBus routes would be consolidated.

County spokesman Mac Scott said while county officials are obviously disappointed that Prop M failed, he does not believe Metro “had any other choice.”

“I don’t know that Metro had any other choice but to get it on the ballot when they did,” Scott said. “They’re running out of money operating in the manner that they’re operating right now. So the idea was to get it on the ballot. I just think there were a whole boatload of factors (for Prop M’s defeat). Just look at the economy right now. That didn’t help that election.”

Tom Sullivan, a spokesman for the Public Transit Accountability Project, said county voters made the right choice in rejecting Prop M as the transit agency has other funding avenues available for operations.

He pointed out that St. Louis County could restore $10 million cut this year from its Metro appropriation and that Metro has more than $77 million in unrestricted funds.

Besides Prop M, county voters also rejected two more tax measures and approved one.

More than 61 percent of county voters approved Proposition 1, which will levy a quarter-cent sales tax “for the purpose of establishing a community children’s services fund for the purpose of providing services to protect the well-being and safety of children and youth 19 years of age or less and to strengthen families.”

The measure received 314,184 “yes” votes and 196,280 “no” votes.

While the $120 million bond issue Prop-osition I received 252,226 “yes” votes and 244,131 “no” votes, the measure failed as it required a four-sevenths approval, or 57.15 percent.

Prop I would have funded capital projects like a new family courts building, renovations to the county’s court building, construction of a new animal shelter and expansion of the county’s crime and health labs.

More than 55 percent of county voters also rejected Proposition H, a proposed 1.85-percent use tax on all out-of-state purchases of more than $2,000 for the purposes of “enhancing county and municipal public safety, parks and job creation and enhancing local government services.”

The use tax received 278,474 “no” votes and 224,215 “yes” votes.

Just less than 55 percent of county voters also rejected Proposition C, which would have established a commission to amend the County Charter.

That measure received 255,062 “no” votes and 211,715 “yes” votes.