This is one editorial about the Feb. 5 election that won’t mention a single presidential candidate by name, make any denigrating comments about the tone of the campaign or promise hope, peace or prosperity.
This is about the city of St. Louis and its promise of hope, peace and prosperity.
Tuesday’s ballot will provide St. Louis City voters an opportunity to approve a half-cent sales tax as part of Proposition S.
The $18 million in annual revenue raised by the tax will go to:
Hiring more police;
Giving firefighters and police a meager 2.5 percent raise;
Providing $11 million to shore up the city’s fire and police pension funds, as mandated by state law.
Lest this become another dart on the mayor’s desk, understand the General Assembly of the State of Missouri sets the benefits for firefighters and police officers, according to state law. The same set of statutes mandates the city of St. Louis meet its obligations to police and firefighters before funding anything else.
That means that if the tax doesn’t pass, the problem gets worse. Money currently allocated for street repairs, parks, economic development, you name it, will go to pensions. Salaries too. Beginning in 2010, the city will face a funding gap of about $22 million due to the pension shortfall. That much money can only be realized if jobs are cut.
Opponents of the tax, including the city comptroller, say they want to look at how much money goes to "development incentive policies" before approving a sales tax. That’s like holding our future captive to pay for our past. We’ll never grow.
Those who have served the city nobly and well deserve the pensions they were promised (and state law takes the decision out of the city’s hands anyway). To attract new, qualified firefighters and police, a strong pension is part of the package they and their families expect.
The sales tax would be shared by city residents and those of us who work in the city but live elsewhere as well as those who cheer our sports teams or dine in the city’s fine restaurants. We should get a little help from the conventioneers and visitors as well.
If the tax doesn’t pass, the burden will be shared as well because there will be less money for development, marketing, street repairs in front of our businesses, you name it.
The vote on Tuesday is for more than a half-cent sales tax. It’s for the future of the city of St. Louis.
Vote yes for Proposition S.