ST. LOUIS, Mo. — “Better Together” have released their plan to merge St. Loius City and County governments. The proposal would combine most municipal services including police, but doesn’t touch fire and school districts. In order to take effect, the plan would need to be approved by voters statewide.
St. Louis City Mayor Lyda Krewson and County Executive Steve Stenger support the idea. The Municipal League of St Louis and many municipalities in St. Louis County oppose the plan.
Better Together says that the area spends $2.3 billion every year to operate and administer 115 local governments. The group says that $750 million is spent on inefficient or duplicate services. They say the fragmented structure of area governments is expensive and stifling growth.
Better Together says they have, “A Bold New Vision for Our Community.” The group was formed in 2013 to identify the economic, government, and racial barriers that inhibit the area’s growth and prosperity. They believe their proposal will shape St. Louis into the 9th largest market in the United States, well positioned to prosper in a global economy. The group says the status quo is a recipe for decline.
Over the past five years the group says that they have worked to gather data about the 115 local governments in the region. They encountered some resistance but didn’t let that deter them. They have held 34 public forums to help recommend a way forward for the entire community.
Better Together is recommending the creation of a new class of local government in the state of Missouri, called a Metropolitan City. The new government would encompass the current geographic boundaries of the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County with a population of over 1.3 million residents, making it the 9th most populated city in the United States.
The planners expect a $250 million tax surplus for the area. They recommend the initial property tax for the Metro City be lower than the current St. Louis County rate. The earnings tax in the current City of St. Louis would also be phased-out.
The new “Metropolitan City” would be led by a mayor and a 33-member council. There would be 40,000 residents in each council person’s district. The area would also have one elected prosecuting attorney and one elected assessor.
There are currently 90 ways to license a business in the area. The group recommends that the new “Metropolitan City” would streamline that process. There would also be one economic development plan for the region.
Better Together also says that there should be one police force for the new unified area. They plan on making the City of St. Louis’s fire department a fire protection district. All other fire services would continue to be delivered in their current manner.
They’re asking the area to consider their proposal over the next 19 months. A decision may come in November 2020.