ST. LOUIS – A new report released Monday by the group, Better Together, had some sobering statistics that should make everyone in the region take notice. Their study found that St. Louis area municipalities spend nearly twice as much as other metro areas for basic services on an annual basis. City leaders say the numbers will likely get even worse if our region doesn’t take action. That’s why a new Task Force was announced today that will have the job of taking the results of another year-long study and find a course of action.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger were at the unveiling of the report today and they didn’t hold back about what they thought of the findings. “I’m troubled by the findings of the new Better Together report that was released today,” Krewson said. “As a city and as a region, I do not think it’s advisable for us to go down this road.” The County Executive noted that he was skeptical of the group when he was voted into office 2 years ago, but now he sees how valuable their information is proving to be. Stenger said “I’ve seen firsthand the limitations that our current structure places on us. It frequently prevents us from changing and adapting for the times we live in.”
The report released today looked at a number of factors. But the bottom line can be summed up simply that the St. Louis region is spending more money, on fewer people, and the results are not getting any better. Dave Leipholtz, the Director of Community Based Studies for Better Together says cities that were once looking up to St. Louis are now flying by. One of the biggest problems is that we spend more than $2-billion dollars annually on services. Other metro areas are much less. “We were paying up to $750-million dollars more per year for similar municipal services. The study we released today shows that the spending has increased by $120-million dollars in just 3 years. That’s the result of a hundred tax increases we’ve spent in the St. Louis region in the last 5 years alone.”
The group wants to make sure that action is taken on the new results. They announced a new task force today that will take these results and then formulate a plan about how to move forward. “We’re going to take the next year and really look at what’s a possibility for St. Louis as a region to have a better structure that’s more efficient, that serves its citizens better, and a structure that’s really built for a modern economy to grow,” says Leipholtz.
A plan for unification or other government structure will likely end up in the hands of voters. That is something area leaders didn’t want to acknowledge a few years ago, but are now starting to publicly say that something has to be done. “I believe in order for our region to really thrive we have to change the way we do business,” Stenger adds. “There needs to be a smarter, leaner, more efficient way to do business.”