Failure of Fragmentation: Aug 2 Tax Hikes On the Ballot

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The voluminous 71-page St. Louis County April sample ballot contained every race and proposition put before voters. Thanks to a presidential primary a few weeks before, two tiny municipalities (MacKenzie pop. 134 and Uplands Park pop. 445) which couldn’t file on time, and fragmentation that necessitated 323 different ballots, errors in the quantity of ballots printed lead to shortages in some precincts. Yet another example of the burden of fragmentation wreaking havoc in even the most basic roles of government.

The April ballot included several tax increases and bond issues. The next ballot looks much the same. Voters will consider another round on August 2nd. Fragmentation and low-productivity auto-oriented development patterns are synergizing in the St. Louis area, driving up the per capita cost of government services, transportation, 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-Nor (Pop. 1,486)- 6% utility tax
  • Bellfontaine Neighbors (10,807)- $8M general obligation bond issue to fund regular street and sidewalk maintenance.
  • Dellwood (5,005)- $200 semiannual fee for property vacant for 6 months and $45 inspection fee.
  • Ferguson (21,086)- 2% increase in t he utility tax for a total of 8%. Voters turned down a property tax hike and passed a sales tax increase in April.
  • Glendale (5,925)- $8M bond issue for a new fire station and renovation of city hall. Glendale has about the same number of residents as the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood in St. Louis City. SD doesn’t need to renovate its own city hall nor have a big fire station as the small one it has is a part of a fully-capable department serving a large area. The station’s coverage carries over to neighboring areas leveraging its full potential.
  • Glendale – 0.25% sales tax increase to fund fire department operations and purchase a new pumper truck.
  • Normandy (4,983)- $0.40 per $100 assessed tax increase for general municipal purposes. This would double the municipal portion of the property tax there.
  • Pasadena Hills (924)- $0.59 per $100 assessed property tax increase for policing and public safety. The total municipal rate would be $1,78, the highest in St. Louis County.
  • Velda Village Hills (1,058)- 0.5% sales tax for storm water control and parks.

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?

August 2 St. Louis County Sample Ballot

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