Chesterfield Threatens to Secede From St. Louis, Join St. Charles County

May 7, 2014 at 6:00 am
click to enlarge Ah, the boundless beauty of Chesterfield. - Paul Kinttel on Flickr
Ah, the boundless beauty of Chesterfield.

Unless Chesterfield can keep more of its sales tax revenue, the city says it's considering leaving St. Louis County and joining up with its neighbors in St. Charles.

Chesterfield mayor Bob Nation told the city council Monday night that he thinks it's time to look at secession as a viable option.

"I'm very seriously suggesting we need to consider looking at the constitutionality of the local sales tax system, or even seceding from St. Louis County and joining St. Charles County, because I don't know what other solution to propose," Nation said at the meeting, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"St. Louis County has done nothing but take revenue we desperately need to pay our bills. With all the sales and property taxes generated by Chesterfield, I think that isn't an outrageous statement."

See also: St. Louis Unite: Slay, Dooley Call for Open Minds at City/County Merger Symposium

St. Louis County's chief operating officer Garry Earls tells Daily RFT that Nation is "blowing smoke pretty hard," especially since Chesterfield gets $16 million in sales tax from St. Louis County, more than any other municipality.

"[Nation] is trying to convince us that he's serious about this," Earls says, but despite the city's bellyaching about money, "they are making out very well with regard to revenue in the city of Chesterfield."

But Nation isn't complaining about all of Chesterfield's sales tax income -- just the 1 percent that goes into a county-wide pool to be distributed among other cities. Right now, Chesterfield contributes more than 15 percent of the tax funds into the pool and only gets back about 6.5 percent, according to the Post-Dispatch.

"Mr. Nation likes to focus only on the 1 percent sales tax, which is part of his argument of what he does not get," Earls says, adding that Chesterfield gets $5 million from that 1 percent sales tax. "People used to talk about that as the glass half empty. He's not talking about what he does get, which is the part of the glass that is really full."

Of the other 9 percent in sales tax shoppers pay in Chesterfield, a little more than 4 percent goes to the state.

"[Nation] has never demanded to get the state's money or to cede out of the state of Missouri," Earls says.

Transferring Chesterfield from one county to the other could gets a little tricky when it comes to the Missouri River, which divides Chesterfield from St. Peters in St. Charles County. The Monarch Levee protects Chesterfield Valley from flooding, and as the owners of the Spirit of St. Louis Airport, the county of St. Louis is a member of the group that operates the levee.

"If [Chesterfield] were to change ownership, we are going to require them to move the river, too," Earls tells Daily RFT.

If Chesterfield really wants to leave St. Louis (and take Bluesweek and Taste of St. Louis with it), voters in the city, county and St. Charles County would have to approve it, Earls says.

And he knows at least one Chesterfield voter who doesn't want to cede from St. Louis: himself.

"I am one resident in Chesterfield that would vote against changing," Earls says. "I moved here to live in St. Louis County, and that's where I want to stay."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].