Saint Louis County Creatively Circumvents Taxpayer Vote
Saint Louis County is using stimulus funds to get around the results of the Nov. 2008 election, when a $120 million bond project failed after receiving a vote of 50.8 percent, which was short of the necessary 57.15 percent needed to pass. The proposition as it appeared on the ballot read:
PROPOSITION I – Improvements to County Buildings & Facilities
Shall St. Louis County, Missouri, issue general obligation bonds up to the amount of One Hundred Twenty Million Dollars for the purposes of constructing various capital improvements to County buildings and facilities, and making improvements to County safety/security and communication facilities?
Saint Louis County officials don’t have to listen to the ballot box results, because their federal benefactor has come to the rescue. The county is using half of its $40 million of Recovery Zone Economic Development funds to build the new health department building that failed to garner support in 2008. A family court building will also be built, using Built America funds. The federal funds won’t fully finance either of these projects, though, and the rest of the money will have to come from the departments’ operating budgets.
Some may argue that the people only voted down the use of a bond to fund these projects, and did not necessarily disapprove of the projects themselves. This may be true, but using stimulus funds to cover only part of these projects will still create an additional burden to taxpayers. It may be a discount, but these stimulus funds will not provide “free” buildings for Saint Louis County — rather, it’s a way around a failed bond issue.
Here’s the real issue: If local voters are not willing to finance their own projects, why should the federal government subsidize them? The federal government does not have a magical money tree; stimulus funds also come from taxpayers, whether present or future. These are buildings that the Saint Louis County taxpayers decided were not necessary, but officials have found a loophole.