The following editorial was submitted by Blake Ashby, on behalf of himself and councilor Linda Lipka.
We plan to vote Yes on Proposition U this Tuesday, and encourage you to do so as well. It will help us in our efforts to hire more police officers and it levels the playing field for our Ferguson business owners versus online vendors.
The number one thing citizens of Ferguson want are more police officers. Better traffic control requires more police officers. Quicker response to guns going off requires more officers. Crime prevention requires more officers. Does anyone disagree? We need more officers. How do we pay for more officers? Vote for Prop U.
We are down about ten from where we need to be, and we HAVE to correct this. Like it or not, salary levels have an impact on our ability to hire new officers and keep those that we currently have. Ferguson’s starting officer salary is $5,000 less than Florissant, and even further behind departments in West County. Being an officer in Ferguson already has a different set of challenges; we shouldn’t add financial challenges to the list.
A recent commentary, The Case Against Prop, U noted that Ferguson police salaries were higher than Ferguson’s medium per capita income, seemingly implying that our police are already overpaid. We could not disagree more – our officers keep our city safe in a very challenging situation, and deserve every dollar they currently earn, and a raise. The commentary also suggested that Ferguson had plenty of money in reserve to cover any increased salaries. Yes, the Ferguson Rainy Day fund was increased with one time money from the CARES Act and also includes restricted money that can only be used for specific purposes, by law. However it’s down substantially from where it was six years ago, and more importantly it’s bad governance to rely on rainy day money to pay current bills. Our city manager, rightly, wants to ensure we have the funding in place to pay the higher police and fire salaries in the future. Ferguson has been here for over a hundred years. The way to ensure it continues for another hundred by prudently managing our budget, as the City is trying to do. And yes, the tax will be earmarked just for public safety, and not used for general expenses.
We also believe the tax will be fairer for local businesses. There’s broad agreement that Ferguson benefits from having a thriving local business community. It’s far more convenient for residents, it provides tax revenue to the city and supports local property values. We want Ferguson businesses to succeed. We pay 2% sales tax on the products we buy from local businesses. It’s only fair that we pay the same on what we buy from Amazon – it is using our roads and infrastructure to deliver its products. 2% doesn’t seem like much, but in retail every penny counts, and we shouldn’t be giving out of state businesses any advantage over our local retailers. It levels the playing field for our Mom and Pop businesses to compete with online businesses.
The City expects the new tax to raise about $800,000, on average about $75 per person. But if you do most of your buying here in North County, the new tax won’t affect you – you are already paying the same tax on your local purchases. Yes, if you spend your days shopping online at Amazon, you will pay a little more. But it won’t be that much, and you are willing to pay Amazon for the convenience – it’s only fair Ferguson’s costs are covered as well.
The commentary referenced a recent situation with improperly paid vendor invoices to suggest Ferguson is falling apart at the seams and not to be trusted with any more of our money. The employee and the contract were terminated – it was an example of government handling the situation correctly. Yes, Ferguson has had a rough go at it. But the City is continuing to work hard for the citizens and is using all of its tax dollars prudently. The residents and Council never stopped caring. Now we have a City Manager that cares. We still face challenges, but every week we also see improvements, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Ferguson staff and City Manager. I know some of us are frustrated with what happened to our community. But we shouldn’t let frustration with the past keep us from doing what we need to do to ensure Ferguson again thrives in the future.
So we are asking all residents of Ferguson to vote Yes on Proposition U. It will help make Ferguson a safer city and it’s the right thing to do.