Clashes between St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Councilman Sam Page are expected at Tuesday night’s Council meeting regarding a proposed pay raise for St. Louis County Police Department personnel.
In an ordinance initiated by the county police union and Stenger, there would be a pay raise of 30 percent for the County police staff.
The ordinance is expected to be voted upon in its “perfection” stage on Tuesday.
The raises would come from Proposition P tax with approximately $19 million of the tax money going towards the increase in salary for County police.
Proposition P is a half-cent sales tax that’s expected to generate $80 million a year for public safety. It was passed this April with sixty-three percent of St. Louis County voters voting in favor of the tax.
Page said he supported a raise for St. Louis County police officers but warned that it must be done properly otherwise it could have a significant impact on the County’s retirement system.
“Being careful in how we spend Prop P money is just common sense. I support a big raise for police officers but we have to do it responsibly,” Page said. “The simple truth is that the administration has refused to answer straightforward questions about how the raises will impact the retirement system. Until those questions are answered, it is difficult to proceed with a big raise for police officers.”
Stenger addressed Page’s opposition on Monday by issuing a statement that said he would make sure all councilmembers were accountable in using the Prop P funds wisely.
“On October 3, 2017, the Council passed the Proposition P transparency bill to re-affirm the steadfast promise to our citizens that Proposition P funds will be spent wisely, transparently and, most importantly, would not be diverted from the purposes the voters approved,” Stenger said in a written statement. “I intend to do everything in my power to uphold that commitment, including holding the police department, County Government, you and all the members of the Council accountable to that promise as well.”
Matt Crecelius, business manager at the St. Louis County Police Association, also disagreed with Page and said it was absurd for police to ever attempt to harm their own pension.
“The biggest argument that we as a police union have for this is to think that the police union would do anything to harm our pension is ludicrous,” Crecelius said. “No one cares more about the police pension than the police union. That’s our pension. That is one of the things we fight for to make sure it stays the way it is and for it to be funded properly and that it’s there for everybody when it comes time for retirement.”
On Oct. 3, Councilman Mark Harder’s legislation that would add more transparency to Prop P was passed with five yes votes, with Councilmembers Hazel Erby and Rochelle Walton Gray abstaining.
According to Harder, the new bill would create a web portal on the St. Louis County website where residents can see how the money comes in and eventually how it’s spent.
“It sets up a portal on our St. Louis County website that allows you to look at that as the money comes in. The other side of this on the expense side is eventually you’ll be able to see how it’s spent,” Harder said. “Are we spending it on body cameras, on salaries, on cars? It will answer where it is going specifically.”