ST. CHARLES COUNTY • Four years ago then-state Rep. Sally Faith used her outsider status at City Hall in her successful campaign to unseat the three-term mayor, Patti York.
Now it’s Faith’s turn to run as an incumbent — against challenger Mike Klinghammer, a member of the St. Charles County Council.
Among other highlights on the April 7 election ballot across the county are property tax increases to fund the Wentzville and Fort Zumwalt schools and a bond issue and tax hike in O’Fallon to build a new police headquarters.
In the St. Charles mayor’s race, Faith, 69, says the city has improved on her watch with little controversy.
“The city is going in the right direction,” she says. “We’re not in the newspaper all the time.”
That’s a reference to the absence of prolonged political bickering of the type that roiled city government a decade ago.
Among other things, she notes the opening of two long-planned projects — the Streets of St. Charles, a commercial-residential development at the old Noah’s Ark site, and a strip center anchored by a Schnucks grocery near Lindenwood University.
She also cites a retirement incentive program last year resulting in the departure of 43 older city workers and savings of $1.5 million a year. Most were succeeded by lower-paid replacements.
Klinghammer, 50, says he’d be more aggressive in recruiting new business to the city.
He also criticizes Faith and the City Council for cutting more than $1 million from the city police and fire departments after casino tax revenue missed projections last year.
He says he’d work to restore the police and fire budget trims over the next three years. That stand helped him win campaign endorsements from the city’s firefighters and police unions.
“Public safety is job one for what the city government is here to do,” he says.
In her defense, Faith said the number of police officers, firefighters and paramedics who actually respond to calls hasn’t dropped.
She says much of this year’s cut involves the elimination of four vacant management jobs whose duties were taken on by different employees in addition to their other responsibilities.
Klinghammer insists that public safety will nevertheless be diminished, particularly by the phase-out of the fire department’s medical training officer and fire marshal in charge of fire safety inspections.
The two candidates also are sparring over the recently begun project to widen and beautify a 10-block stretch of Fifth Street north of Interstate 70.
Klinghammer said it would have been better to do a less costly version instead of making the police and fire cuts. The city is putting about $2.8 million into the $10 million project, which also includes county, state and federal money.
He also says he’d have put higher priority on a yet-to-be-funded plan to improve the I-70 interchange at Fifth and nearby access roads.
Faith says she supports that idea as well. But she says it would have been impractical to change the Fifth Street plan since the various governments had worked out the current version some time ago.
Both candidates have many years of experience in elected office.
Faith, before her six years in the Legislature, served 10 years each on the County Council and St. Charles Community College board.
Klinghammer was a St. Charles city councilman for 12 years before he was elected to the County Council in 2012.
He calls himself a “budget nerd,” having taken on detail work involving public works and other issues.
Klinghammer is a financial planner. Faith formerly worked as a fundraiser for the community college and a nonprofit organization. Although both are Republicans, party labels aren’t listed on the ballot for candidates for St. Charles city offices.
The most recent campaign finance reports, covering activity through Feb. 21, showed Faith had raised about $43,000 and Klinghammer about $30,000.
OTHER BALLOT ITEMS
Lake Saint Louis also has a mayor’s race, featuring two Boeing Co. employees. Kathy Schweikert, whom fellow aldermen picked last year to temporarily fill the post after the death of Mayor Ralph Sidebottom, is running against Eric Oman.
The Wentzville School District proposal calls for a property tax increase of 25 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation to pay for new and expanded facilities and help the fast-growing system deal with additional enrollment.
For a home worth $200,000, taxes would go up $95 a year. The plan would pay for building a new elementary school, expanding Liberty High School and various other projects. The tax hike is smaller than one that failed at the polls in the district in November.
Fort Zumwalt school leaders are seeking passage of two measures — a 48-cent property tax hike and a $25 million bond issue.
The district says the tax increase would ensure it could offer competitive salaries to teachers. The extra money also would allow hiring of 25 to 35 new teachers and other employees. For a home worth $200,000, the annual tax would increase by $182.
The separate bond issue, which wouldn’t trigger a tax hike, is requested to build an early childhood education facility and upgrade and maintain existing schools.
O’Fallon wants approval of a $28.7 million bond issue to build the police and courts facility on a site on Bryan Road south of Veterans Memorial Parkway. Voters turned down a similar plan last year. The current measure would spur a property tax increase of 4.58 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation. The tax on a home worth $200,000 would go up by $17.40 a year.
Supporters say the building is a needed upgrade from the current cramped police and court facilities at City Hall.
Opponents say this should be a lower priority than other items such as fixing subdivision streets. They also say if the building were really needed, the city could use existing tax sources to build it.
Meanwhile, St. Peters voters will decide on a bond issue for sewer system improvements. That will not involve a tax increase. Also seeking a bond issue without a tax increase is the Central County Fire and Rescue district.
There also are contested races for alderman in St. Peters, Wentzville, Dardenne Prairie and Cottleville and for seats on the boards running the O’Fallon, Cottleville and Lake Saint Louis fire protection districts.
Among contests in Lincoln County are mayoral races in Moscow Mills, Foley and Winfield and a bond issue in Hawk Point to upgrade the water and sewer system.
In Warren County, three candidates are running for mayor of Warrenton.