This week's Featured Member Post comes from Richard Bose, writing for NextSTL.
On the April 5 ballot in St. Louis County will be another round of tax increases. Fragmentation and low-productivity auto-oriented development patterns are synergizing in the St. Louis area, driving up the per capita cost of government, services, infrastructure, and utilities. Despite $100Ms in opportunity costs under our current approach, municipal leaders are thinking inside the box to keep their budgets balanced. There are no mergers or disincorporations on the ballot.
- Bel-Ridge- 1.5% utility tax
- Berkeley- property tax increase of 0.22 per $100 assessed value for police and fire pensions
- Dellwood- $7M in bonds for infrastructure and facilities maintenance and improvement
- Ferguson- 0.5% optional economic development sales tax. This is the last of the optional sales taxes that Ferguson can levy
- Ferguson- property tax increase of 0.40 per $100 of assessed value. If passed the city would have the 2nd highest among the 90 munis in St. Louis County.
- Florissant- raise Residential Rental License fee to $50. $200 fee for property vacant for 6 months
- Jennings- property tax increase of 0.125 per $100 assessed value for police and fire pensions
- Rock Hill- $6.1M bond issue for a new municipal center to be paid with property taxes. Rock Hill has about the same number of residents as the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood in St. Louis City. SD doesn’t need to build a municipal center.
We’ve set up a scheme resembling Enron-style accounting where debt and liabilities are hidden in subsidiaries (municipalities). Those liabilities are piling up, and we pretend they will be confined to those municipalities forever. Do we let the system unravel on its own where munis hold on until the bitter end and dump those liabilities onto the county or do we come together before the bill gets even worse?