When St. Louis voters passed a half-cent sales tax increase while rejecting a plan to build a soccer stadium downtown, they essentially gave city leaders an extra $5 million a year to play with. Incoming Mayor Lyda Krewson would like to put that money toward public safety and potentially hiring more police officers, just as she promised throughout her campaign, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The extra money comes as a result of voters’ approving only one part of a two-part plan. In two weeks, when she is sworn in as mayor, Krewson will have the benefit of an extra revenue source and some leeway to use it. Money from the tax is currently used for affordable housing, health care and demolishing derelict buildings. Once certain thresholds are met in those categories, the city can use excess funds to pay for public safety, neighborhood preservation and development, categories broad enough to give elected officials plenty of flexibility.
How to spend those dollars could be an early fight for Krewson, who will have to balance keeping campaign promises with the numerous competing interests of other city leaders. A number of aldermen are particularly concerned about an estimated $20 million budget shortfall they will have to contend with starting later this month. The need to negotiate is something that Krewson, 64, acknowledged after she secured a historic election victory to become the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor. “My preference is to use that money in the public safety area, but it’s not a one-woman decision,” Krewson said. She made boosting the police department a core part of her campaign platform, saying the city needed to hire as many as 200 new officers and pay current officers higher salaries. Her plan would cost about $20 million a year. Recruiting officers has been a struggle.