ST. LOUIS (AP) — The nonprofit behind an effort to merge the city of St. Louis with St. Louis County says the consolidation would save the region’s taxpayers nearly $5 billion in the first 10 years, though some local leaders are questioning the numbers.
Better Together released its fiscal analysis Wednesday. It estimates the merger would save taxpayers $250 million per year by 2026 and more than $1 billion in the 10th year through streamlining government, taking advantage of economies of scale and eliminating duplication.
“The cost of local government for every citizen in St. Louis will decline by more than $200 per year — a family of four will see its burden decline by $1,022,” Better Together Executive Director Nancy Rice said in a statement.
The consolidation plan revealed in January calls for changing the Missouri Constitution by creating a new class of local government called a metropolitan city of St. Louis that would have a single mayor and 33 council members. Current county municipalities would be preserved as “municipal districts” that would still have some power but would lose authority over sales tax, courts and police.
Leaders of several of St. Louis County’s 88 municipal governments oppose the plan. Chesterfield’s City Council even directed staff to look into the steps necessary to merge into neighboring St. Charles County.
Municipal League of Metro St. Louis Executive Director Pat Kelly said the financial analysis lacks substance and fails to offer specific details about how costs will be saved.
“In order to have that savings, what employees are you letting go and what services are you reducing?” Kelly asked. “They don’t show that. So it really isn’t a plan. It’s a theory.”
St. Louis city and county were separated by a vote in August 1876. Several previous reunification efforts failed. Better Together hopes to put the latest plan to a statewide vote in November 2020.
St. Louis city has just over 300,000 residents, while about 1 million people live in the county. If they merge, St. Louis would jump from the nation’s 62nd largest city to the 10th largest, just behind Dallas.