Familiar Story of Financial Woes for St. Ann
Northwest Plaza is struggling, and it is taking St. Ann down with it. The Post-Dispatch has an all-too-familiar story of a municipality struggling because the local mall is having problems. Similiar stories have taken place in Crestwood and Jennings. To its credit, St. Ann appears to have made the necessary cuts in services and staff, along with passing a sales tax increase last year, but now the mall wants to increase sales taxes again to help pay for renovations there:
St. Ann’s Board of Aldermen is expected to vote in September on Somera’s request for $96 million in redevelopment assistance — including a 1 percent tax on sales at the shopping center.
After the renovations are made, the city is predicting an increase in sales tax collections. First comment — there is no guarantee of that. Second comment — even if it does happen, it will just take tax money from some other city (Hazelwood and St. Louis Mills, perhaps), leading to the same problem, different location. As Charlie Brennan often says on KMOX, we are all just eating the same pie, and the retail pie in St. Louis is not growing. All that changes is where we bite.
So, what should St. Ann do? As I said, they have done some good things in regards to making tough choices, so I want to give them credit where it’s due. One thing I highly recommend, although this is not financial, is to stop electing the Chief of Police. That is just silly. Next, the county matrix shows that St. Ann does contract with St. Louis County Public Works to perform a number of functions, but they can certainly contract for more. Finally, follow the lead of Clayton, Maplewood, and Richmond Heights, and give serious consideration to sharing municipal services with Overland, Woodson Terrace, Edmundson, and other neighboring cities. Perhaps this is already being done, but it does not appear to be. Finally, give serious consideration to leaving “A” sales tax status, joining the pool, and rejecting Northwest Plaza’s insistence on public money. I know that would lead to dramatic cuts in city services at the start, but the long-run stabilization might be well worth it. If more cities did this, we could stop the cannibalization of sales tax money within our area.