CLAYTON – In 2017, St. Louis County voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition P. A public safety initiative which established a sales tax increase to help fund the St. Louis County Police Department.
A proposed bill could divert those funds.
During Tuesday night’s county council meeting, Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-District 6, proposed a bill that would take nearly $750,000 of the new funding to pay salary increases for the county employees in the transportation, legal, and parks and recreation departments instead.
To date, Prop. P has generated $46 million in new revenue for the county.
Trakas’ proposal has triggered some skeptics. Trakas had shared that he simply wants to begin a conversation, addressing the “vague language” in the proposition. For example, what does “public safety” mean?
As it stands, Proposition P requires that all funds be appropriated to approve police and public safety.
“Proposition P, as passed, requires that Prop. P funds be appropriated for and spent to improve ‘police and public safety.’ It is imperative that ‘public safety’ be clearly defined,” Trakas said. “Bill No. 76 was introduced to foster reasoned dialogue and debate that will finally and permanently define exactly what public safety is, in order to fairly and accurately appropriate Prop. P funds.”
Joe Patterson, president of the St. Louis County Police Association (SLCPA), noted that when the proposition was first drafted, it was done in order to find a funding source for staffing and equipment for the county’s police department, prosecuting attorney’s office, and justice services. Those three entities were the only ones involved in the campaigning and media for Prop. P.
“The County Counselor’s office and the transportation office were never mentioned as part of the proposition,” Patterson said. “The council has stripped $4.8 million from the police department already…[Councilman Trakas] has a moral obligation to withdraw [his] bill completely.”