St. Peters could face a shortfall of $3.3 million per year to manage storm water and make park improvements if voters reject a sales tax increase in the Aug. 7 election.
Mayor Len Pagano and City Administrator William Charnisky delivered that message during a Board of Aldermen work session Thursday that included a staff-assembled video on how to rectify the problem.
In Proposition P, the city will ask voters for a sales tax hike of four-tenths of a cent, which could generate as much as $4.8 million per year, Charnisky said. Two-thirds of the money would go to storm water management and a third to park improvements.
"Many times people ask, 'If I pass this proposition, what's in it for me?'" Charnisky said. "Well, if you're a swimmer, it could mean a new scoreboard (at the St. Peters Rec-Plex). Or if there's park equipment that's falling apart, we could replace it. We don't have the funds to do that now."
The board agreed to provide about $1.5 million for park improvements and $10 million for storm water improvements over the next three years if Proposition P wins approval by a simple majority of voters.
The proposed tax hike would add 4 cents to a $10 purchase from a St. Peters business.
"This puts us in a competitive state with the other municipal sales taxes in the county," Charnisky said.
In August 2010, St. Peters voters approved a $40 million bond issue for storm water management. The city did not request a tax increase at that time because it had enough revenue coming in to cover the cost of borrowing money for storm water management. But officials believe borrowing money without a tax increase is no longer a solution.
The assessed value of property in St. Peters has declined by 11 percent since 2007, costing the city about $2 million in property tax revenue. The city also has faced increases in fixed costs, such as for gasoline, insurance and equipment maintenance. That led the city to reduce personnel through retirement and attrition, ask employees to contribute more to their benefits and delay replacing equipment and making repairs to parks.
Officials said they also considered the options of increasing property taxes and charging a storm water utility fee that could double or quadruple a resident's bill, but decided instead to propose the sale tax hike.
The cost of the storm water management plan and improving parks is estimated to total $119 million. The city has identified 100 storm water projects that need to be completed to comply with federal regulations.
St. Peters has 25 parks, 20 miles of paved trails for hiking, biking and running and the only publicly owned golf course in St. Charles County. According to the video played during the work session, new playground equipment costs about $200,000, a new park pavilion costs $100,000 and a mature shade tree for 370 Lakeside Park costs $10,000.
"This sales tax will not only improve the quality of life but extend it out another 20 years," Pagano said.