November 2017 Edition
As many of you know, this has been an important topic to the region over the years; however, the rhetoric, discussions, and activity have intensified tremendously in the last year. An organization known as “Better Together” has collected data and put forth information that suggests that the cost of services in places like Indianapolis and Louisville are considerably less on a per resident basis than the services provided by the many different municipalities and independent districts within St. Louis City and St. Louis County. However, another study conducted by the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC) at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, headed by Dr. Mark Tranel, has concluded that the cost per resident in the municipalities within St. Louis County is actually less than that of Indianapolis. Apparently, Better Together did not include all services and costs in their study, whereas the PPRC used all of the Consolidated Annual Financial Reports for all services provided as a source for their data.
Currently, and under normal circumstances, any consolidation would have to be approved by the voters of both St. Louis City and County. However, it is anticipated that leadership in the Missouri Legislature may try to put forth legislation that would put the measure on a state-wide ballot, or alternatively, a state-wide petition initiative could be attempted. Many municipalities, along with the Municipal League of St. Louis County, are putting forth an effort to prevent a state-wide vote that most likely would not be in the best interest of our metropolitan area. I recently finished reading a book, “Fragmented by Design” by Dr. Terry Jones, which gave a history of our area, beginning with the great divorce in 1876. The book also gave an account of the many attempts over the years to re-unite the City of St. Louis with St. Louis County. It seemed that the main reason efforts were not successful (especially in recent decades) has been the assumption and perception that there would be a financial burden upon the taxpayers of St. Louis County if such a reunification were to occur. I agree with this assertion and suspect this burden would fall even more heavily on the shoulders of residents living in incorporated areas like Chesterfield.
As most are aware, the previous owners of Chesterfield Mall ceased making payments on their debt late last year, and as a consequence, they were foreclosed upon. According to current Mall management, bids will be solicited in the near future for a purchaser who will then put forth a plan for redevelopment. From a planning and zoning perspective, the City looks forward to participating in this process. I think patience will be a watch word here. We understand that this will likely become a mixed-use development with a smaller retail footprint with the potential inclusion of office, residential, restaurants, and entertainment uses.
REVENUES ARE DOWN
We have become more focused on a trend of decreasing retail sales tax revenues that began early this year and is the result of a several factors. Chesterfield, like most cities, relies predominantly on sales tax revenues; therefore, we are watching revenues closely. However, the city has a very healthy 40% fund reserve balance in our general fund, so we do not believe the sky is falling. It may seem surprising that although we see much new development in the city, no additional taxes are generated (with the exception of a small amount of utility taxes). There is no property tax or personal property tax that comes to the City from these developments. I would also like to address what I would call a misnomer. In talking with many people from not only Chesterfield, but other municipalities, it seems as if residents are under the impression that the City of Chesterfield is abundantly wealthy and has extra revenues that we have available for extraordinary uses. This is simply not the case, as there are many other municipalities that have much higher per capita revenue than does Chesterfield. On average our residents seem to be relatively affluent, but this wealth factor does not transcend to our city coffers.
In spite of the serious issues facing our community and region, I strongly believe that Chesterfield has very good reason to be proud of the services we provide at a reasonable cost, and that we have a bright future for our city and the region as a whole.
I hope to see you out and about in our community, please feel free to say hello and express any concerns or ask any questions.
Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season!
Mayor Bob Nation