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On the April 5 ballot: City seeks $25 million for capital needs with Proposition F

A city tow truck brings a St. Louis Fire Department ambulance in for  repairs.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

For the second time in seven months, voters in the city of St. Louis are being asked to authorize borrowing for major capital needs.

Last August, voters rejected Proposition 1, which would have funded $180 million in borrowing with a property tax increase. On April 5, city residents will consider a smaller version of that proposal in Proposition F.

What is Proposition F?

Proposition F authorizes the city to borrow $25 million for critical capital needs. Here is how it will appear on the ballot.

Proposition to issue bonds of the City of St. Louis, Missouri, in an amount not to exceed Twenty-Five Million Dollars ($25,000,000) for the purpose of purchasing, replacing, improving, and maintaining the buildings, bridges, and equipment of the City of St. Louis, including (1) acquiring fire trucks, ambulances, personal protective equipment, and other fire-fighting apparatus for the St.Louis Fire Department;(2) acquiring refuse trucks for the Refuse Department;(3) updating computer hardware and software for City departments;(4) providing match share funds to repair, renovate, and replace bridges;(5) renovating recreation centers, buildings, and facilities owned by the City of St. Louis;and (6) for expenses associated with the issuance of the bonds. If this proposition is approved, the property tax levy is estimated to remain unchanged.

The city charter requires a 2/3 majority for bond issues to pass. That high threshold is the reason the August measure failed.

What will the money fund?

The St. Louis Fire Department will be the biggest beneficiary, receiving $15 million for 10 new fire trucks, seven new ambulances, repairs to roofs and HVAC systems at some of the department's 36 fire houses, and a new roof and generator at fire department headquarters.

The department's newest vehicles were built in 2006, and some of the back-up equipment is nearly 20 years old.

"It's getting dangerous," said fire chief Dennis Jenkerson. "We stay up with the brakes, we stay up with the tires, the hydraulics, and the electronics on the trucks. But with an older truck, you get metal fatigue. The frames, the suspensions, they just can't take it anymore.

The remaining $10.2 million would be distributed this way:

  • $2.1 million to retrofit a city-owned building as property custody storage for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police. That is the only thing remaining in the old police headquarters building.
  • $1.3 million for repairs to the city's aging recreation centers. These funds were originally directed to repairs to the municipal garage at Clark and Tucker streets.
  • $2 million to draw down matching dollars for bridge repair
  • $500,000 to make repairs at a variety of city buildings, including City Hall
  • $500,000 for corrections facilities, including new locks
  • $2.5 million to upgrade the computer system used by the assessor's office. The system was last updated in 1984.
  • $300,000 for additional computer upgrades
  • $1 million for four trash trucks

Is a tax increase required?

No. The city already has a 13-cent property tax levy in place to cover debt service. Proposition F merely extends that rate over the life of the proposed new bonds.

Who's for this? Who's against this?

Mayor Francis Slay put $100,000 from his own war chest in to the coffers of Reinvest STL, a campaign committee working jointly for propositions F and E, which would retain the city's earnings tax. He is the largest contributor to the effort.

The Globe Building Company, Lathrop and Gage, and the Regional Business Council all kicked in smaller amounts.

There's no organized opposition to Proposition F. Legislation putting it on the April ballot passed the Board of Aldermen without opposition. Former comptroller Virvus Jones, who campaigned against the August bond issue, said he had no opinion on Proposition F.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.