Politics
11:52 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

St. Charles County Council Approves Raises For Elected Officials

Credit Flickr/Rob Lee

Elected officials in St. Charles County are getting a raise.

The St. Charles County Council approved the 15 percent bump in pay last night, which will officially go into effect in 2015.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the county’s charter only allows them to consider a raise every four years, and the last one came in 2007.

“There’s no guarantee that anybody who voted on this tonight will ever see it, because they’ll all have to be elected to get the raise,” Ehlmann said.

Ehlmann admits the bump in pay probably looks massive, but if averaged out since the last raise it comes out to about two percent a year.

He says the pay hike is in line with those for other county employees whose salaries have gone up incrementally over the same time period.

Arch Tax

Representatives from a coalition of groups advocating for a sales tax that would pay for improvements to the Arch grounds made their case to the St. Charles County Council last night.

Great Rivers Greenway, a publicly funded agency that is constructing a larger system of parks and trails throughout the region, would manage funds from the tax.

The agency’s Executive Director, Susan Trautman, told council members that the tax would significantly improve the landmark and ultimately be a good deal for tax payers.

“This is an opportunity for the people in our region to stand up and say, ‘yes, this is important to us,’” Trautman said.  “And it’s an opportunity to leverage and get much more for your money.   For every dollar of public money, we would have more than two dollars of private money to match it, which is a really terrific opportunity.”

In order for the 3/16-cent sales tax to appear as a ballot initiative in St. Charles County it would have to be introduced as bill and ultimately passed by the council.

That could prove to be a significant hurdle because it would cost the county up to $200,000 to add it to the April ballot, and County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the county shouldn’t have to cover that cost.   

Instead, he said that should be the responsibility of Great Rivers Greenway.

But Trautman said the agency isn’t legally able to use their funds to pay for the ballot initiative.  

In contrast, Ehlmann said he had a different interpretation of the law.  

Ehlmann also said he wants some sort of assurance that the money will only be used for its intended purpose, and not diverted toward other projects.

“If people are going to be asked to support a new tax for trails, and parks, and the Arch, we need to make sure every dime goes to that purpose,” Ehlmann said. 

The tax is scheduled to be considered by the St. Louis County Council Tuesday afternoon.    

Commission On School Safety

The Council also approved an emergency bill that authorized a special commission to examine how well county schools are prepared to handle a mass shooting situation similar to the one that occurred in Newtown, Conn.

Ehlmann said the county has an obligation to consider what it can do to help prevent acts of violence in schools.

“Most importantly we need to get our hands around the whole mental health issues here,” Ehlmann said.  “If we could do a better job of identifying people who have the potential to commit these types of violent acts, we certainly can’t guarantee they won’t happen again, but if we can do better we should."    

The commission will consist of members of law enforcement, school administration and mental health services along with two members of the county council.   

Follow Tim Llloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd