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Government, Politics & Issues

St. Louis voters will finally get say on $180 million bond issue

Mayor Francis Slay signs the bill authorizing a vote on new capital-improvement bonds.
Provided by the mayor's office.

After nearly 14 months of political gridlock, a $180 million bond issue is on its way to St. Louis voter in an August election.

The Board of Aldermen approved, and Mayor Francis Slay signed the authorizing bill Tuesday. The bonds would help pay for major capital needs like road and bridge projects, new equipment for the fire department and upgrades to the security system at one of the city's two jails. 

"I'm glad that we've gotten through the legislative process, and I'm looking forward to getting the bond issue out to the voters so they have an opportunity to look at it and to weigh in on it," said board president Lewis Reed, the bill's lone sponsor. 

  • Ayes: Aldermen Flowers, Moore Ingrassia, Coatar, Ortmann, Vollmer Villa, Arnowitz, Murphy, Green Baringer, Roddy, Kennedy, Spencer, French, Boyd, Vaccaro, Ogilvie, Cohn, Williamson, Carter, Pres. Reed
  • Nays: Alderman Conway
  • Did not vote: Alderman Hubbard
  • Absent: Aldermen Tyus, Bosley, Howard, Davis, Krewson

Reed introduced a bond issue in April 2014, but the bill got tangled into political knots and went nowhere. 

"Last year, a lot of people had elections up," Reed said. "Oftentimes, opponents would look and say, you passed an ordinance that increased people's taxes, even though that's not what you've done."

This year's version is virtually the same, but without funding for Complete Streets work, sidewalk repair, bike infrastructure and sharing, and a tool lending library. There is also no funding for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's real-time intelligence center, which is opening this summer with private support.

But passage by the board is only the first hurdle. Two-thirds of city voters must say yes for the bonds to be sold. Approval would result in a tax increase of less than $100 a year for most St. Louis homeowners.

"All of us do have a sales job before an August vote on this," said Alderman Scott Ogilvie. "We need to go explain why this is important, where the gaps in service are going to be if we don't approve this."

Reed, the board president, said he planned to use some of his remaining campaign war chest and will raise money for the effort as well. Mayor Francis Slay is expected to do the same. A committee with ties to the mayor's lead campaign strategist is already operational

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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