ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected red-light cameras and re-elected County Executive Steve Ehlmann and Elections Director Rich Chrismer.
Meanwhile, the Wentzville Fire Protection District won passage of a property tax increase on its second try, but a Wentzville School District bond issue and related tax increase failed.
The camera ban was put on the ballot by the County Council and aimed at St. Peters, the only part of the county using the devices after Wentzville dropped them last year.
“Voters said no to red-light cameras. They don’t want them around,” said the measure’s sponsor, Councilman Joe Brazil, R-Defiance.
Brazil said the cameras were a “money grab” by cities and the companies operating them.
Keith McNames, executive director of the County Municipal League, said he and other opponents of the ban — a county charter amendment — were disappointed by the vote.
However, he said he wasn’t surprised. He said voters focused on the cameras instead of what he said were the underlying issues. “The county is trying to usurp authority over municipalities,” he said.
St. Peters’ mayor had warned earlier this year that passage could spur a new court battle over how far the county can impose its will on cities.
The city suspended in September use of the cameras until after the Missouri Supreme Court rules on their future statewide.
Ehlmann and Chrismer, both Republicans, easily won new terms over respective Democratic opponents Rod Zerr and Kate Runyan.
Ehlmann, 63, said his victory was due partly to running a scandal-free administration. He also thanked county workers.
“I’ve been the coach of a very good team,” said Ehlmann, a former high school basketball coach. “From the thousand employees who do a great job every day up to my inner circle, which is just the best in the world.”
Chrismer, 68, said he had won because county residents trust him. “We run a very efficient election office, and the people appreciate it,” he said.
Chrismer disputed during the campaign complaints from Runyan, a former employee, that his office was poorly run. Runyan cited Chrismer’s return of $113,000 in federal and state grants after the secretary of state’s office said he had charged local governments for the same election-related tasks. Chrismer said he had been given the grants by mistake.
The Wentzville fire proposal will increase the property tax by 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to pay for new firefighters to deal with the rapid growth in the area. The annual tax on a home worth $200,000 will go up by $95.
District officials said additional personnel would staff two new firehouses funded by a bond issue passed at the August primary. Voters in August had rejected the separate tax measure approved Tuesday.
“Talking to people and making a simple message paid off,” Assistant Chief John Schneider said. “We said we can’t hire anybody for these stations unless we get this general revenue increase.”
The Wentzville school proposition was a $40 million bond issue to build a new elementary school, add classrooms to three current elementary schools and expand Liberty High School.
The bonds would trigger a property tax increase of 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation; the tax on a $200,000 home would have increased by $133 a year. The plan was backed by nearly 51 percent of voters but fell short of the 57.1 percent required for a bond issue.
Superintendent Curtis Cain said it was too soon to parse the numbers to determine why the measure had lost. He said that what happened next was up to the School Board.
“Our growth speaks for itself, and we’re going to continue to have growth,” he said.
Voters overwhelmingly rejected a property tax increase sought by the County Ambulance District. A similar plan was defeated in August. The measure would have boosted the tax rate by 35 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home worth $100,000 would have paid $66.50 more a year in taxes.