Friday, August 26, 2011

St. Louis County Property Tax Increase in the Making?

Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post Dispatch

St. Louis County Council Chairman Steve Stenger said Friday that County Executive Charlie A. Dooley has been manipulating County Police Chief Tim Fitch in an attempt to get the council to pass a property tax increase.

Stenger, D-Affton, said that Dooley, a fellow Democrat, had approached him and Councilman Mike O'Mara, D-Florissant, earlier this week to ask if the council would approve a 2.3 cent property tax roll-up to cover pay raises for the police department and other county employees, whose salaries have been frozen since 2008.

"Charlie told Mike and me that he wanted to sell this tax increase to the public by using the police pay issue," Stenger said. "When we told Charlie we wouldn't support a tax increase because there's plenty of money in the budget already for a pay raise, Charlie turned around and tried to use the police to sell the tax raise to us (the council)."

Dooley said he would not be available for comment until late Friday afternoon.

Fitch confirmed that Dooley had asked him to call the council regarding the tax raise and pay issue.

"The county executive wants to do this property tax roll-up in order to enable additional revenue to do the pay raise and other things he has in mind," Fitch said.

In 2009, Dooley called a press conference to announce that he was proposing cutting the county's property tax by 3.5 cents, to 52.3 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation. The county council approved the request.

At the time, Dooley was running for re-election.

"When Charlie called a press conference two years ago to announce his tax cut, it was nothing more than a campaign stunt," Stenger said. "If he really cared about the employees, he would have got them the pay raises instead of cutting taxes.

"Charlie knows that tax raises are a poison pill. He doesn't want to take that pill himself, so he's trying to force it down the throats of the five Democrats on the County Council. If he wants to raise taxes, let him call another press conference and announce it that way."

Stenger, a lawyer and a certified public accountant, said he has examined the county budget and found plenty of room in it for a pay increase without a tax increase.

"The only thing I can surmise is that the Dooley administration wants to do more with less, instead of tightening their belts and playing by the same rules as everyone else is playing by in this economy," he said.

A poll of the county council revealed overwhelming opposition to a tax raise. Of the seven members, two of whom are Republicans, only Kathleen Burkett (D-University City) did not come out against the roll-up. Burkett declined to say where she stood on the matter.

The issue has revealed a rare rift between Democrats in the county and may mark a change in interactions between the council and the county executive.

"My fellow council members' actions show a great deal of independence and leadership," Stenger said. "Charlie, on the other hand, is not displaying the kind of leadership that I am going to follow."

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  1. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Maybe the tax increase would be unnecessary if the county would stop wasting money on the moronic from the git go trash district program. And aren’t the tactics Commissar Dooley is using to pressure the Council unethical or outright illegal? Sounds like he’s trying to make them an offer they can’t refuse, hope none of them own a horse. Hurrah for Steve Stenger and the other council members who are finally developing the chutzpa to oppose this fool before he totally destroys the county.

  2. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Dooley is constantly telling us how much trash districts have saved the county. If this is true why do we need a property tax increase? It seems that raises could come out of the vast savings brought on by trash districts. Or maybe they turned out to be half vast savings.

  3. Anonymous1:24 PM

    What taxpayers must understand, this tax increase does not require a vote of the people. St. Louis County is currently taxing at a rate under their approved tax ceiling, so all that is necessary, is for the county council to approve, and the tax bills will go up.

  4. I don't think I'll ever be able to understand the resistance to the trash program. What possibly could drive someone to prefer one trash hauler over another? Why would anyone care if his trash is collected by Peter's Trash Hauling rather than Paul's Trash Hauling?

  5. Anonymous7:32 PM