Mayor reflects on past four years
It’s been a fast four years! As I reflect on our key city achievements, I am happy to report significant success with fiscal responsibility, the sales tax pool issue, and city transparency.
With the help of our strong City Council, we were able to reduce the annual budget by over $900,000. We scrutinized employee compensation, reduced the number of take-home vehicles for employees, and cut any expenses which did not directly benefit Chesterfield residents. We continue to view all expenses very critically.
Separately and unrelated to the other financial considerations, we curtailed one year early the collection of the small property tax that we once had. This saved our taxpayers approximately one million dollars and was achieved by setting aside fund reserves over a number of years.
The pool sales tax is a significant issue for Chesterfield and I have reported on any progress several times in this forum. With the passage of House Bill 1561, a cap of 50% was placed on the amount of our sales tax dollars to be distributed to the county pool, saving our city about $280,000 annually. I was humbled and honored that the Council voted July 18, 2016 as Bob Nation Day in the City of Chesterfield for testifying before the Missouri House and Senate to reform this imbalanced sales tax distribution system. Our ongoing and pending litigation challenging the legality of the pool sales tax system will be moving forward soon. I am hopeful that the judge will decide that the current system is unfair to Chesterfield residents and that the entire county tax structure can be restructured.
Increased transparency has also been a key priority. With the relatively new appointment of Mike Geisel as our City Administrator, we have worked diligently to keep the public better informed. As an example, our city website now has a readily-accessible transparency portal allowing citizens to view city expenditures, employee salaries, etc. This is another step in the right direction and I am committed to continued improvements in city transparency.
If you have driven by the amphitheater lately, you have probably noticed that our Veterans Honor Park is on its way to completion. What a beautiful tribute this park will be to our veterans! Target completion is in April, with a dedication scheduled for May 3.
A key concern is the future of Chesterfield Mall. You may have read that malls across the country are having tough times with so much online purchasing. With so many stores leaving the mall and the fact that the former owner of the mall chose to stop making payments on their debt, the mall is now in what is called receivership. The court appointed receiver is in the process of determining the best course of action, including pursuing a redevelopment plan. There are many factors that make this a unique challenge. Sears, Macy’s, and Dillard’s own their own properties and parking lots, use restrictions exist by deed, not to mention other unusual circumstances. Nonetheless, we believe that the property has great value, the demographics of the area are sterling, and there will be a successful outcome that will continue to provide an asset to the City of Chesterfield.
Many of you may have read the headline and article in the Sunday, February 5 Post Dispatch regarding the lease of a vacant lot located at 16559 Old Chesterfield Road. As perplexing as it may be to understand the decision-making and secrecy that took place for many years, I want our residents to know that we have finally released any and all information that the current elected and appointed body is aware of relevant to this eight year old lease/purchase options.
I will be asking our City Council to create an ordinance that will preclude any similarly wasteful decision making involving expenditure of taxpayer dollars in the future. As a minimum, a valid and accurate appraisal should need to be obtained before obligating funds for the lease or purchase of real estate.
As embarrassing as this may have been for our city, I want to stress that we are very proud of our employees and the service they perform for our residents and businesses. The decisions made primarily by previous elected and appointed officials should not be associated with our employees and their service to our community. I look forward to a very bright future for our city!
And to end on a positive note, our city’s strengths far outweigh our challenges, and in 2016 Chesterfield received several recognitions:
• Ranked #5 – “ Ten Smartest Cities in Missouri” (Zippia)
• Ranked #17 in US - “Best Small Cities to Start a Business” (Wallet Hub)
• Ranked #25 in US for “Cities with the Best Money-Management Skills” (Wallet Hub)
Whereas I have long recognized (and continue to do so) that our neighborhoods are our most precious asset, we look forward to continued responsible growth and success for Chesterfield in 2017. The City Council and I appreciate input from our residents and take your concerns seriously. Feel free to call your Councilperson or me anytime. Enjoy spring!
Mayor Bob Nation