The St. Louis Labor Council has unanimously endorsed Proposition P, a half-cent sales tax for St. Louis City police and fire fighter salaries and public safety.
St. Louis County voters, in April, passed a tax proposal, also called Proposition P, to fund salary increases for St. Louis County Police Department officers.
When the county raises go into effect, St. Louis City officers will be getting paid $10-20,000 less than county officers, putting increased pressure on the city to increase its salaries or continue to lose officers to other jurisdictions.
“They’re losing a lot of really good officers to the county, almost on a daily basis, because of the raise county voters approved,” Labor Council President Pat White said.
The city’s Interim Police Chief, Lawrence O’Toole, visited with the Labor Council Executive Board and said the goal is to keep salaries for St. Louis police officers competitive with surrounding jurisdictions.
“If we can get this to pass, we’ll still be lower than what they make in St. Louis County, but we make up for it because we have a really good pension system,” O’Toole said. “We have good officers in the city. They like working for the city. But we have to be competitive.”
If approved, the sales tax is expected to raise more than $20 million a year. O’Toole said part of those funds will be used to tear down derelict buildings in the city, which he called “crime havens,” and fund after-school programs.
Mark Woolbright, International Association of Fire Fighters 2nd District vice president, said St. Louis City Fire Fighters Local 73 was firmly in support of the proposition.
St. Louis City Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson told KMOX radio the measure was desperately needed to raise salaries in his department.
“We have the second largest fire department in the state behind Kansas City, and we’re probably one of the lower paid fire departments in the state,” he said.
Proposition P will be on the ballot in St. Louis Nov. 7. It is the only measure on the city ballot.