The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is unlikely to vote on a $200 million bond issue until after the August primary election. That's because Board president Lewis Reed put a temporary kibosh on bill by tabling any discussion of the issue.
Reed cited a litany of reasons for the delay, including the need to continue negotiations with the mayor's office and fine-tune the bill.
"A number of people would like to see more breakdown in the bill, some people would like to see less breakdown," Reed said. "There's been some discussion on the home repair fund. There are some people who would like to put more money into the Northside Regeneration project. We need to work through all of those things across the summer."
The delay is also related to Amendment 7, the proposed .75 percent sales tax hike to fund transportation projects statewide. Reed said the project list includes funds for that controversial street upgrades near Pruitt-Igoe.
"I think it would be gravely irresponsible of anybody at this board to vote this bill out, having $25 million allocated for the Northside Regeneration project, and to have a ballot measure coming up the first week in August with that same money in it," he said.
But Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay, said that Reed's reading of Amendment 7 isn't close to being correct. The city wants to use bond money to do work along Cass and Jefferson avenues, as well as a number of streets near the Missouri side of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial bridge, Rainford said. The funds in Amendment 7 that Reed referred to are for a new interchange at 22nd Street and Interstate 64. The two sites are about a mile apart as the crow flies.
A spokesman for Reed said they don't have enough details about the state project to be convinced there's no duplication of funds.
So far, neither Reed nor Mayor Francis Slay is budging on including $5 million for home repairs in the bond issue. Reed said those funds are critical for north side constituents. Rainford agreed they’re needed, but a bond issue is the wrong way to provide them.
"We would prefer that this be on the November ballot, but doing nothing is much more preferable than doing something that hurts the taxpayers and is bad for the taxpayers," Rainford said. Because the money would go to private citizens, the bonds for home repair could be taxed, making them more expensive to sell and possibly impacting the city's credit rating.
The Board of Aldermen went on summer break today, but Reed pledged to bring the aldermen back for additional meetings to get the bill passed in time for a city-wide vote in November. The deadline for getting the issue on the November ballot is August 26.
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