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New report questions potential savings of St. Louis merger

New report questions potential savings of St. Louis merger

April 14th, 2019 in Local News

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A group of professors claim the nonprofit behind an effort to merge the city of St. Louis with St. Louis County vastly overestimated the plan’s potential savings, according to a recent report.

Webster University professor Jim Brasfield is one of the authors of a report released Monday that alleges Better Together made critical errors in its tax revenue estimates and expense projections for its plan to consolidate the city and county.

Better Together released a fiscal analysis in February that estimated the merger could save taxpayers $55 million in year one and more than $1 billion in the 10th year.

Brasfield and two University of Missouri-St. Louis professors, E. Terrence Jones and Mark Tranel, claim the merger wouldn’t save $1 billion a year, but rather only tens of millions of dollars in annual deficits, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“They made errors that you would think a professional group wouldn’t make,” said Brasfield, who is the former mayor of Crestwood.

Jones and Tranel also have experience in municipal government, and all three professors are connected to a nonprofit that is pushing back against the consolidation.

Brasfield said they weren’t paid for the recent study, which comes months after Better Together first proposed changing the Missouri Constitution to create a new class of local government called a metropolitan city of St. Louis.

The plan revealed in January called for the consolidated government to be governed by a single mayor and 33 council members. The existing county municipalities would be preserved as “municipal districts,” retaining some power but losing authority over sales tax, courts and police.

Some local officials have expressed concern that Better Together’s plan would bankrupt some county municipalities and force others to implement steep tax hikes.

St. Ann City Administrator Matt Conley said the professors’ report should signal that representatives of Better Together either doesn’t know what they’re doing or are lying to the public about the plan.

Better Together responded to the professors’ report with a new analysis that claims the consolidated government would distribute up to $526 million in tax revenue to the new “municipal districts” in its first year. Municipal spending would only reach $360 million, according to the new report.

“A quick review indicates that this isn’t worth the paper that it is printed on,” Conley said about the nonprofit’s new analysis.

The nonprofit said: “There is no doubt that without Better Together’s recommendations, expenses will continue to grow in the St. Louis region.”