ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOX) – The St. Louis County Council passed legislation to sharpen the focus on how Prop P monies should be spent during its meeting Tuesday.
It still needs the signature of County Executive Steve Stenger, who has expressed strong support for the idea, to become law.
“As we’ve heard from other municipalities that they were going to spend (Prop P dollars) on potholes and things like that, we didn’t want to do it that way,” 7th District Councilman Mark Harder, the sponsor of Bill 227, explained.
He said the county can’t order municipalities to only spend their Prop P money on police, but this way the county can lead by example.
Proposition P was passed by county voters in April and is expected to raise up to $46 million annually for county government, plus another $34 million to be divided up among the county’s 91 municipalities.
The stated purpose for the half-cent sales tax was to raise money for police and “public safety,” which some local governments have interpreted to mean fixing potholes and other non-police related expenditures.
Harder says his measure will not only shift Prop P dollars into an account separate from the county’s general revenue fund, but it will require hearings on how the money is to be spent.
It will also lead to the creation of an online portal to allow the public to track Prop P dollars.
“Once this is set up electronically, residents can go on our site and see exactly how much is coming in on the revenue side,” he said. “It will also line item Prop P funds instead of just throwing them into the big category of ‘sales tax.'”
The measure passed with five yes votes and two abstentions.
First District council member Hazel Erby was one of those who declined to cast an approving vote.
“I’m afraid that if we approve this that we’re locking ourselves out of a say in how Prop P money is spent,” she told reporters after the meeting. “I didn’t like what happened at the Galleria, and we need more training for police.”
Council member Rochelle Walton Gray from the 4th District also abstained on Bill 227.