A cheat sheet for your April 5 ballot: MSD, car tax, schools, earnings tax and more
Over the past 10 days, St. Louis Public Radio has presented articles on some of the issues before area voters this week. Most of the municipal elections were not reviewed. But we did look at county- and city-wide propositions, as well as tax issues within the city, some school districts and the municipal election in Ferguson.
Proposition Y (Wastewater)
Proposition Y deals with wastewater. It's the latest in a series of rate hikes needed to fund improvements mandated by a 2012 consent decree among the Metropolitan Sewer District, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
If Proposition Y passes, MSD will issue $900 million in bonds. If it fails, the projects will be financed on a cash basis. Rates stay lower over the next four years if MSD borrows the money, but the opposite is true long-term. Whether it wins or loses, the work will be done.
Proposition S (Storm Water Funding and Service)
Proposition S is an attempt to sort out storm water funding and service. It would adjust rates in the areas covered by the sewer district. Three areas now pay different amounts and are eligible for different services. This would equalize both, which proponents say would increase fairness within the system.
MSD is neutral on both propositions. Each requires a 50 percent plus one margin to pass.
Proposition B (Car Tax)
All St. Louis County voters, and residents of more than four dozen municipalities in St. Louis and St. Charles will see a variation of the following proposition, known as Proposition B (A, V, or 1) on their ballot.
It reads: Shall the [insert local jurisdiction] continue applying and collecting the local sales tax on the titling of motor vehicles, trailers, boats, and outboard motors that were purchased from a source other than a licensed Missouri dealer?
As explained by Creve Coeur administrator Mark Perkins, it would "preserve the existing sales tax on out of state and person to person vehicle sales. The city also believes it is important that we place this on the ballot as a matter of fairness so that our state and local car dealers are not put at a competitive disadvantage compared to those that are out of state.”
Proposition E (Earnings Tax)
Proposition E will decide whether to keep the city’s earning tax. If you are a wage earner and live or work in the city of St. Louis, you pay the city’s 1 percent earnings tax.
The proposition states: “Shall the earnings tax of 1 %, imposed by the city of St. Louis, be continued for a period of five years commencing Jan. 1, immediately following the date of this election.”
State law requires the city and Kansas City to hold an election to affirm their earnings taxes every five years. If the measure fails, the tax has to be phased out over 10 years.
Proponents say it is a fair, essential tax that brings in approximately one-third of the city’s general revenue budget. “Losing that tax would be devastating to the city of St. Louis,” Mayor Francis Slay said. “Losing it without a plan to replace it would be irresponsible and reckless.”
Opponents say it is a regressive tax that stifles growth.
Travis Brown, political adviser for Rex Sinquefield, said, “More than a decade is long enough that reduces the annual city revenue concerns on a tax that is unfair to working families because it taxes on 100 percent of their income more so than folks who can avoid it and those who can find ways to abate future income."
Proposition F (Capital Needs)
Proposition F authorizes the city to borrow $25 million for critical capital needs. The city charter requires a 2/3 majority for bond issues to pass.
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.
If the measure passes, taxes would not increase.
In St. Louis, Proposition 1 would increase the tax rate by 75 cents per $100 in assessed valuation and support safety measures, early childhood education and competitive teacher salaries. After two years, charter schools in the city would receive about $9 million of the new funds, based on current enrollment rates. The tax requires a simple majority. District officials say the hike would raise the annual property tax bill for a $100,000 home by $142.50.
In Jennings, Proposition S would let the district borrow $3 million for capital projects. If the proposal is approved, the district’s tax levy is expected to remain unchanged. The bonds require a four-sevenths majority to pass.
In Ladue, Proposition R is an $85.1 million bond issue. Most of the money will pay for renovations at Horton Watkins High School. The bonds would require a property tax increase of 39 cents. The proposition requires a four-sevenths majority for approval.
In Maplewood Richmond Heights, voters will decide Proposition Y, a 55-cent property tax increase. The additional money would primarily pay for hiring more staff to handle a growing enrollment, plus general operating expenses, with the rest paying for capital improvements. The proposal needs a simple majority to pass.
In Mehlville, Proposition A would bring about a 4-cent increase in the district’s operating tax levy. It would pay for repair or replacement of roofs and HVAC systems. The district says passage would not result in increased costs to taxpayers because it expects to reduce its debt service levy by 4 cents. The proposition requires a simple majority.
In Fort Zumwalt, Proposition K is a a 48-cent tax increase to strengthen technology and raise teacher salaries to a more competitive level. A similar proposition lost by 267 votes last year. A simple majority is required.
Ferguson Tax Items
A sales tax proposal would boost the city’s sales tax rate by 0.5 percent. A property tax item would increase the city’s property tax rate by 40 cents per $100 assessed value.
Ferguson City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said last year that the city was facing a roughly $2.8 million budget deficit. He has said that these measures plus such things as benefit and wage reductions would make up the difference.
The sales tax increase needs a simple majority; the property tax question would require a two-thirds majority to pass.
Three Ferguson city council will be decided, but only one, Ward 2 has a contested race on the ballot. The three candidates in that race are Bob Hudgins, Annette Jenkins and Heather Robinett.
Note: Write in campaigns are being organized for Wards 1 and 3.