July 03--ST. LOUIS -- An aldermanic committee on Wednesday gave support to a proposed city-wide bond issue and raised its price-tag from $195 million to $199.5 million.
The city's Ways and Means committee voted 6 to 3 to give support to ballot language that would put the now $199.5 million general obligation bonds on the November ballot.
The bill still requires the approval from the full Board of Aldermen, the city's Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and the signature of Mayor Francis Slay.
The vote came after nearly eight hours of back-and-forth debate where aldermen slowly adjusted the proposed bond issue and added nearly $5 million to the total, which, if approved, would fund infrastructure improvements throughout the city ranging from new police cars to street pavement.
Aldermen on Wednesday spent most of their time talking about a range of infrastructure needs from home improvements to demolitions to street repairs. Some questioned whether the bonds would be used to help developer Paul McKee offset infrastructure improvements he agreed to make as part of a $390 million tax increment financing package for the NorthSide regeneration project.
In addition, the committee added money that can be used for ward-specific capital expenditures.
The bonds would be paid over 20 years from a citywide property tax amounting to an annual increase of about $35 on a property valued at $100,000.
In August, Missouri voters will decide on a separate statewide sales tax increase that would go to fund transportation projects throughout the state.
Now, with the committee's blessing, the amended bond issue bill will move to the full Board of Aldermen, where still many changes could occur.
The bill must be approved before August 26 for it to be on the November ballot. Aldermen go on summer break after July 11, meaning they will have to take the issue up in short order.
One sticking point could be Comptroller Darlene Green. A representative of her office told the committee on Wednesday that Green wouldn't sign off on the bonds because aldermen added millions to go toward home repair costs in the city for struggling or elderly residents. That would make those bonds taxable, thus increasing the interest rate of repayment.
Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said on Wednesday that the bill will likely see changes by the time it's all over, but added the home repairs are "very important for people across the city."
Mary Ellen Ponder, Slay's operations director, echoed Green's concern about the home repair money.
"Home repairs should be a focus, but not in the bond issue," Ponder said, saying the city could find other areas to fund that program outside of the bonds.
The full Board of Aldermen is expected to discuss the bill on Thursday morning.
Follow reporter Nick Pistor on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nickpistor
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