ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOX) – St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says if Proposition P passes on the April 4 ballot, he will immediately move forward on plans to hire 110 more officers and pair up officers in patrol cars for extra safety.
Belmar and his boss, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, appeared on KMOX’s Mark Reardon Show, hoping to convince voters they would spend the $80 million raised annually by the half-cent sales tax hike on public safety — and not other things.
Reardon asked the pair about fears the tax hike could allow politicians to use new money for police, but take away the current $100 million in the police budget for general spending.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Belmar said. “So much so, that I’ve actually published what my plan’s going to look like with this additional funding coming out of Prop P. I intend to use that funding, all of that funding, and take a look at that over a 60 month period, and it’s not going to allow us to back money out of the current budget, because we have to count on this future money.”
Stenger was asked about what appears to be a loophole in the proposal that could potentially allow him and the county council to create a new source of revenue for other projects in the name of public safety.
“I’m held accountable to the voters,” Stenger said. “They are held accountable to the voters. My budget that I would propose is reviewed by the county council. And we also have an online portal where every expense that we incur is all very trackable.”
Opponents of Prop P aren’t so sure.
Ken Newhouse is founder of the group No Mo Sales Tax. He believes the amount of money Prop P would raise goes well beyond what police actually need.
“There’s no assurance that County Executive Steve Stenger and the current county council will use this incoming money, if Proposition P passes, for police, because the current money going to police could be backed out,” Newhouse said.
He also says raising the sales tax another half-cent would put a strain on some consumers.
“This would place too much of a burden on the poor and lower, middle income individuals and families in the county,” Newhouse said. “There are several municipalities that are reaching a near 10-percent sales tax rate. Currently in Missouri and St. Louis County, the bottom 20 percent of income earners pay 5.8 percent of their annual income in sales tax.”
Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation has also expressed opposition to Prop P, saying it’s too big, and too much of a shift of revenue out of towns with healthy retail centers to towns with weak retail.