Eureka voters pass Prop. S to hire more fire fighter/paramedics; Antonia FPD’s Prop. Fire Safety failed
By TIM ROWDEN
Overall, it was a good election for Labor-backed propositions Nov. 7.
In the City of St. Louis, Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax for police and fire fighter salaries endorsed by the St. Louis Labor Council, easily passed with roughly 60 percent of the vote.
The City’s Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole told the Labor Council the goal was to keep salaries for St. Louis police officers competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, especially St. Louis County where voters, in April, passed a tax proposal, also called Proposition P, that would have created a $10-20,000 difference between St. Louis City and St. Louis County officers’ salaries had city voters not approved their own Proposition P on Nov. 7.
Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, called the vote a “decisive, overwhelming win.”
With the passage of Prop P, the sales tax rate in most areas of the city will jump from 9.2 to 9.7 percent on April 1. The increase is projected to bring in roughly $20 million annually, most of which will be spent to hire more police officers and pay them more. Firefighters, who have pay parity with the police department, will also get a raise.
“Our police officers, our fire fighters deserve this raise that they’re going to get,” St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said. “It’s going to make them competitively paid, which we absolutely have to do.”
A corresponding business use tax increase is expected to bring in about $4 million annually, which Krewson said she wants to spend on crime prevention initiatives including after-school and summer job programs, mental health services and tearing down derelict buildings in the city.
The office of Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner will receive an additional $1 million from Prop. P revenues.
Gardner said she and her team will use the revenue “to reduce violent crime, bring innovative ideas and best practices in prosecution to St. Louis and develop victim and witness support and safety programs.”
EUREKA VOTERS AGREE TO HIRE MORE FIRE FIGHTER/PARAMEDICS
In Eureka, voters approved Eureka Fire Protection District’s Proposition S, which was endorsed by the Rockwood Labor Club. The measure needed a simple majority to pass and received 56.9 percent of the vote.
The .25/$100 assessed value property tax increase will allow the district to hire nine additional full-time fire fighter/paramedics to increase the District’s response capabilities and reduce the need to cross-staff firetrucks and ambulances.
The last time the district asked for a general revenue tax increase was 1985.
ANTONIA’S ‘PROPOSITION FIRE SAFETY’ FAILS
Antonia Fire Protection District’s “Proposition Fire Safety,” a 50-cent property tax to protect the jobs of 14 fire fighters, needed a majority to pass but received only 44.1 of the vote in the light turnout election.
The Antonia Fire Protection District provides emergency services to 36 square miles of fast growing northeastern Jefferson County and currently operates with two full-time fire stations and one volunteer fire station.
In March of this year, the fire district was awarded a federal SAFER Grant to hire 14 fire fighters, allowing the district to place four fire fighters on each fire truck, but the grant will expire in 2019. Passage of Proposition Fire Safety would have allowed the district to maintain current staffing levels beyond then. Passage of the measure would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $8 a month.