Voters weigh in on Page side gig, internet sales taxes | Politics

CLAYTON — A St. Louis County proposition barring the county executive from moonlighting was leading in early returns Tuesday evening, a measure that would add teeth to an existing charter provision that could force County Executive Sam Page to stop working part-time as an anesthesiologist.

The ballot measure follows a longstanding battle between Page and critics on the St. Louis County Council who charge he is violating the charter by continuing to work as a doctor, questioning just how much time he spends on his medical practice. Page has dismissed the inquiry as political theater, though he has declined to release a detailed schedule or his pay, maintaining he works one weekend a month and an “occasional” four-hour shift on weekdays.

The measure says the the county executive must forfeit his office if he holds other employment or works as a contractor. 

Another St. Louis County charter amendment reining in the county’s executive branch was also leading in early results Tuesday. Proposition A would require that salaries of the county executive’s political appointees be listed within his office’s budget — a recommendation in a critical state audit released in 2020 by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway. For years, county executives have embedded the salaries of many of their staffers in other departments’ budgets, concealing the true scope and cost of their staffs.

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Those ballot measures are two of the most high profile of dozens of ballot measures that appeared on ballots around the region Tuesday.

Voters resist internet sales tax

More than 40 municipalities in the region — as well as St. Louis County — had a use tax on the ballot allowing the collection of sales taxes on internet purchases from out-of-state vendors. The use taxes would mirror sales tax rates and are the final step in a years-long effort to subject internet merchants to the same sales taxes as brick and mortar stores.

The issue hit ballots this year after the Missouri Legislature passed an enabling state law — one of the last in the country to do so — following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for the local sales tax collections.

But early returns showed voters in many places leaning against the new tax authorization, including those in St. Louis County, where it was trailing early Tuesday evening. 

Webster Groves, Ballwin, Hanley Hills, and Shrewsbury were among the only municipalities where the internet sales tax was winning in early results. 

Public Safety taxes

A proposed sales tax for fire department service and pensions in University City was among the most contested of municipal ballot issues, with organized support both for and against. Voters were leaning toward approval in early results. 

A quarter-cent fire protection sales tax in Crestwood was also garnering more support in early returns. 

In Shrewsbury, after several quarters of deficit spending, an additional property tax of up to $1 per $100 assessed value in property taxes was in the lead in early results. The new tax could let the suburb more than double its current property tax rate of 56 cents per $100 assessed value. 

And voters in the tiny South County burg of Bella Villa, population 757, were leaning against — six to one — approving a property tax of up to $1 per $100 assessed valuation so their police department of three officers and chief could continue patrolling the city’s 83 acres.

Bella Villa is surrounded by unincorporated St. Louis County, which is patrolled by St. Louis County Police. More than half of the city’s almost $500,000 budget goes to police protection. A November attempt to pass the city’s first property tax failed by one vote.

 A sales tax for parks in Jefferson County was trailing in early results. Property tax hikes for parks and pools was leading in St. Ann and trailing in Florissant.

And area voters continued giving strong support to their fire protection districts, with property tax increases leading in Affton, Mehlville and North County and a bond issue leading in the Metro West Fire Protection District. 

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