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St. Louis Mayor Slay Outlines Plans To Fund More Police

St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Joe Keaveny has filed legislation that would return the St. Louis Police Department back to local control for the first time since the 1850s.

Updated at 5 p.m. with comments from Mayor Slay.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said Wednesday he's found a way to fund 160 additional police officers over the next two years, plus get money for proven crime prevention programs and more training for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

"We can do things like look for more efficiencies, and do hiring freezes, things like that, but it's not going to raise the necessary dollars to hire that many cops," Slay said. "Cops are very expensive, but it's money well-spent."  

The Board of Estimate and Apportionment was expected to discuss the $9.4 million proposal on Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled because of a lock-down at City Hall. No make-up date has been scheduled, though one is expected before the end of the year, said Slay's spokeswoman Maggie Crane. The measures do not require approval from E&A, whose members are the mayor, Comptroller Darlene Green, and aldermanic president Lewis Reed.

According to Slay's proposal, the $9.4 million would come from five main sources:

  • Increasing the parking garage tax by 5 percent, expected to raise $2.6 million
  • Adjusting the graduated business tax to account for inflation, expected to raise $1.5 million. The tax was last adjusted in 2006.
  • Adjusting the auto license tax to keep up with inflation, expected to raise $1.4 million. The tax was last adjusted in 1986.
  • Dedicating all revenue from red light camera tickets if the program is reinstated, raising $3.5 million
  • Reducing vehicle maintenance costs in the police department for $400,000 in savings. 

None of those funding sources are guaranteed. The first three items must be approved by the voters. A circuit judge found the city's red light camera program was  invalid back in February, although the court allowed the city to keep collecting revenue from the fines in an escrow account. The Supreme Court of Missouri heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month.

The $400,000 of savings from reducing vehicle maintenance costs will happen only if aldermen pass, and voters approve, a stalled general obligation bond.

"If we don't get all the revenues to get to do what we need to do, we'll just have to do with what we have," Slay said.

Slay said he's hoping to get the tax increases on the April ballot, when the president of the board and even-numbered wards are also up for election. That means they have to pass the Board of Aldermen by Jan. 27. The board is off for the holidays until Jan. 9. The requests for new funding also come as aldermen are set to examine a measure that would  create a civilian oversight board for the police department.

Reed, the board president, said he supports the need for new revenue, and said in a statement released by the mayor's office that he "looks forward to doing what is necessary to see more police officers on patrol protecting our citizens and participating in community relationship programs that will build the bonds and trust that are necessary for effective community policing."

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter@rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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