Ellisville Mayor-Elect Adam Paul said changes to city services including fees for brush pickup may be worth pursuing as the city considers long-term financial proposals.
A proposed Walmart in Ellisville is projected to create roughly $500,000 annually toward the City's $9 million yearly budget. In addition to a sales tax referendum approved last spring, the proposal to draw Walmart to the city was one of several revenue generators city council members have considered to compensate for what Mayor Matt Pirrello previously described as increasing costs to do business.
In informal discussions earlier this month, Paul and Pirrello discussed measures that ranged from charging a fee for brush pickup to becoming a "pool" city under St. Louis County's tax sharing agreement. Paul also talked with Pirrello about the possibility of consolidating the Ellisville Police Department and contracting for law enforcement services under St. Louis County Police—an idea Paul said he was not in favor of, but was one of several proposals discussed.
"I don't ever want to go that route," Paul said. "Our police department is second to none."
"We were talking about how it would be awful to have 2-minute response times opposed to whatever the county provides," Paul said.
"I was just trying to gauge from (Mayor Pirrello) a perspective of how financially strapped are we and what are our options of what we woud lose or could lose if we didn't move forward with this, because if there's none, then we should kill this (Walmart) deal off right from the bat," Paul said. "There's just too much negative public outcry to move forward."
Paul, who was elected mayor April 3 and is scheduled to be sworn into office Wednesday, ran a campaign centered around opposition to the proposed Walmart, which would be built southwest of Clarkson and Kiefer Creek roads. The development, which would be overseen by the Sansone Group, may be granted a TIF district, which the principal developer with the project said was essential to the Walmart being built. If approved, the tax increment financing district would capture half of all new sales tax growth that results at the site for up to 23 years and put it into a fund meant for investments in surrounding local infrastructure.
Although a vote over the TIF district is scheduled on Wednesday's city council agenda, Paul said it's extremely unlikely the issue will be voted on this week.
"If it's not a must-have, then I don't know why we'd hurry up and rush into a situation and (Mayor Pirrello) agreed," Paul said. "We're not going to rush into anything or make any assumptions."
In addition to opponents of the TIF and by extension Wal-mart, many residents of Clarkchester Apartments have contacted city hall with concerns related to a re-location policy the city council also is likely to soon vote on; Clarkchester Apartments are among the businesses located within the parcels marked for the Walmart development. If the proposed relocation policy is approved, each household located within Clarkchester Apartments would be granted up to $1,000 for moving costs.
Paul said that because Clarkchester Apartments and other businesses at the site already are at least generating property taxes at the site, those areas do already generate some funds for the city.
Paul said that regardless of whether a Walmart is built in the city, certain services such as garbage pickup should not be subject to a fees.
"Because that's a service the city really appreciates for the money that we pay," Paul said. Leaf and brush pickup, however, may be an option for city savings.
"I think the people would be willing to handle that, more or less, twice a year to dump bags at a landfill or at our actual Ellisville public works site," Paul said.
Paul said any talks about cost savings measures are in very early stages, however, and he still is learning the city's budget for detailed projections on finances.
"That's information that I'm going to have to gather and look into from a business perspective as far as what's a viable option as far as what we do moving forward."
Paul will be sworn in as mayor at the city council's next meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday as Ellisville Elementary School.