St. Louis aldermen approve half-cent sales tax hike for first responder salaries

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ST. LOUIS, MO - The St. Louis Board of Alderman joined Mayor Lyda Krewson in taking a step forward to get police officers and firefighters a raise. They approved Board Bill 60 which would add a one half cent sales tax increase to raise the necessary funding.

City residents will vote to approve the bill in November.

The city is short 114 officers. City officers make well below what St. Louis County officers, especially the 30% raise they have coming from the passage of Prop P.

The Mayor says the raises aren’t enough and the tax is regressive but the police need something. While the St. Louis Police Officers Association doesn’t back the tax because they say it benefits too many other things, not just police.

Krewson says, “If voters approve the plan in November, it will generate $13 million a year for police officers salaries and benefits.  On average, that will be an increase of $10,000 a year in salary and benefits for each officer. Board Bill 60 will also increase pay and benefits for firefighters and The Circuit Attorney’s Office will get a boost as well.”

But JP Johnson of the St. Louis Police Officers Association said in a statement:

First and foremost, SLPOA would like to thank the Board of Alderpersons for working diligently to draft and advance legislation to address public safety in the City of St. Louis in a holistic and comprehensive way. Despite the consternation caused by an internal email to our members outlining where we are in this process, SLPOA understands, respects and believes in the need for augmenting enforcement with proven measures that attack crime at the root cause. Our contention has always been, and will always be the lack of a guarantee that earmarks dollars for pay raises. The pay disparity with the county is real, as are ongoing efforts to stem the tide of defections to neighboring counties.

It took a lot of courage for Alderpersons to advance a regressive revenue generator for the purpose of addressing public safety in our City. We thank them for their deliberation and action. Our fight has never been with the Board, but the office responsible for scuttling an amendment that would have ensured the police portion of BB 60CS was earmarked for pay increases. Efforts to address pension costs could have been resolved during contract negotiations. Unfortunately, Room 200 canceled the latest meeting. We remain hopeful the next session commences, and we are able to negotiate a deal that satisfies all involved for the good of our city. We cannot in good conscious ask citizens to support a measure believed to be for pay raises, which would be discernibly untrue, especially when the ask would harm the poorest amongst the most. If we are to make that ask, and our people are willing to make the sacrifice, they deserve to know exactly where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent.

Room 200 understands well the need to attract and retain talent. There are multiple individuals that make over $140k, in part because the Mayor believes in paying her employees competitively to ensure the best possible staff serves our community. All we are asking is for the Mayor to ensure the same principle is applied to those women and men, both black and white who patrol our streets in a time where many are overworked and underpaid, are treated as fairly as those who are privileged enough to work in Room 200.

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