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You Gotta Decide On County Prop '$' By Tuesday

Proposition S supporters want tax dollars for St. Louis County courthouses. Opponents? Not so much.

on April 3. It requires a super-majority to pass, 57 percent.

It's about spending $90 million to replace what was called the Juvenile Courts building when it was built 40 years ago. The politically-correct renamed it the .

Perspective

The building is on the former grounds of the County Hospital on Brentwood Boulevard. The County Hospital is long gone, replaced by an impressive office park, but the old Juvenile Courts building remains.

If the Prop "S" bond issue passed, the plan is to build a new Family Court facility in downtown near the and .

Back when it was first built, the progressive thinking county leaders wanted Juvenile Courts to be physically separated from the rest of the criminal and civil courts. Now they want it back in downtown Clayton. What little parking there is in Clayton, will become even harder to find.

The Family Courts are now handling far more cases than Juvenile Court did back in the 1970s. The court cases have outgrown the facility.

Problems

But there are problems with Proposition S:

  1. The bond money would be used for the current courthouse, not just the Juvenile Court.
  2. It falsely claims Prop S won't cost us anything, a claim made by the people running Citizens for Safe Courts and Kids (the PR arm of the bond proposal.)

Plans spending on regular courthouse

Now $10 million of the Prop S bond issue would be used to fix up the other courthouse (not family court.) This place really is in bad shape.

The folks for Prop S claim the county wastes “nearly $1 million” a year in upkeep on the building. It is actually $750,000 but apparently that's close enough for this group, led by a wealthy lawyer.

At the very least, there should be two bond issues; not piggyback one for the courthouse onto Family Courts.

No new taxes

Prop S backers are telling us there will be no increase in our taxes, despite financing $100 million in bonds.

In fact there will be an increase in our taxes. The 2.8 cents on $100 assessed valuation of our houses that we have paid for the past two decades (for the new jail building) will expire in 18 months.

That means our taxes would go down! That was the deal. The bonds will be paid off. No one at that time voted for adding another tax when we finished paying off the jail!

If this $100 million bond issue passes, our taxes won't go down. They are supposed to go down. In my book, that's a tax increase.

Neglected on both sides

The other issue here is malfeasance in . The court building was built under the Republican administration of Lawrence K. Roos, county executive. Republicn Gene McNary followed Roos, for another 14 years. County Democrats Buzz Westfall and Charlie Dooley led the past 21 years. 

Examples:

  1. The escalator in the court house has been out of date if not out of commission since 1981, Prop S supporters point out. Instead of asking taxpayers for an increase in property taxes, a county executive needs to budget money for the replacement of the escalator.
  2. The court building was originally built without a sprinkler system because government buildings were exempt from fire code regulations back then. It was common. It was a way to save taxpayers money. Are we just now getting around to realizing this is a safety issue, and need a $100 bond issue issue to fix it?
  3. If you go to the Courts Building you will see that it is dirty. The jury assembly room is filthy. If you look up you see water stains from leaks on the ceilings and walls. So take care of what you have!

These conditions are a result of a lack of budgeting funds for routine maintenance, upkeep. There are plenty of other buildings in Clayton built at the same time as the courts, or earlier, that are in good condition.

In the last 20 years, our elected leaders have let us down. Why should we give money to leaders to fix a building who have a track record of not properly maintaining it for the last 20 years?   

You might think that County Executive Charlie Dooley would take care of the courts building before doling out close to $400,000 in salary and benefits during a hiring freeze to political cronies from his and other Democratic election campaigns. You’d be wrong.

Better way

I'd say there's a better way to solve other problems pointed out by Prop "S" proponents.

Examples:

  1. Supporters of Prop "S" show photos of long lines of people trying to get past security detectors to enter the court building. County government actually caused the problem, by not having enough security staff on duty between 8:30am and 1pm Monday through Friday, to open up multiple screening lines. Twice a day is when most people are due in court—morning rush, and after lunch. This doesn’t take a bond issue to fix. 
  2. User fees are becoming popular. Instead of $10 million in bonds to fix a building that was not properly maintained, why not increase lawsuit filing fees by $25? Make it lawsuits for building repairs? 

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