Should tax payers or non-profits pay for more police? That is the question that could go before voters in the city of St. Louis in November. And the Alderman pushing the idea says the need is urgent with the city losing officers to St. Louis County where voters agreed to increase officer pay.
Friday, the Board of Aldermen took up two bills to increase pay for city officers and add more officers to the force.
If passed and signed by Mayor Lyda Krewson, one proposal would increase the sales tax by 1/2 of one percent if approved by voters. The other would charge large non-profit organizations with more than 20 employees a 1/2 of one percent payroll tax. Currently large institutions like university and hospitals are exempt from the payroll tax.
"These institutions do put a burden on all of our city resources," says the bill's sponsor 8th Ward Alderman Stephen Conway. "We're not asking them to be like a normal corporation and pay property taxes and sales taxes, but help us pay for the services that we're delivering to them."
Conway estimates if non-profits paid the tax it would generate $12 million a year and cover the cost of increasing officer pay and the size of the force.
Conway also says institutions may opt for what's know as a "PILOT" plan - payments en lieu of taxes - where payments are made voluntarily to offset the cost of public services.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis pointed out employees already pay the city's one percent earnings tax and said without seeing specifics of the plan he couldn't comment further on the proposal.
A Washington University spokeswoman also said the university has yet to see specifics but added in a statement:
"For more than 160 years, St. Louis has been home to Washington University. When there are challenges to address, we want to help find viable solutions. We do not yet know the details so it is difficult to address any one proposal. However, reducing crime and enhancing safety has to be a regional priority. We stand ready to work with city leaders and others to assess potential options."