Chesterfield secession? Mayor says not unthinkable

CHESTERFIELD (AP) — The mayor of one of St. Louis County’s most prosperous cities is suggesting that it may be time to consider seceding and joining neighboring St. Charles County.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation is frustrated by the Missouri Legislature’s lack of action on a proposed change to the St. Louis County sales tax distribution system. The change would let cities keep more revenue generated within their boundaries.

“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 told the Chesterfield City Council Monday night.

“St. Louis County has done nothing but take revenue we desperately need to pay our bills.”

Chesterfield, with nearly 50,000 residents, is home to a large mall, two outlet malls and one of the nation’s longest strips of retail space.

It is almost unheard of for a city to move from one county to another.

Garry Earls, chief operating officer for St. Louis County, told The Associated Press that Chesterfield’s success is driven in part by investments from the county and state in roads, Spirit of St. Louis Airport and crucial infrastructure.

Secession “sounds like an awfully complicated action to take, given the set of circumstances that Mayor Nation finds himself in,” Earls said. “His argument is not really with St. Louis County — it’s with the state government and the state Legislature.”

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the secession process would be cumbersome: St. Louis County would have to agree to put it on a ballot, and St. Louis County voters would have to approve it. St. Charles County voters also would likely need to approve of the plan, too, Ehlmann said.

Nation has said Chesterfield surrenders at least 56 percent of sales taxes generated within the city to the county’s sales tax pool. He said that loss makes it hard for the city to pay for police and other services.

“It’s disappointing the county wouldn’t support even this modest adjustment, which would not be detrimental to other cities,” he said.

At least one city councilman agrees.

“The existing sales tax pool law punishes cities that try to encourage economic development and rewards cities that stifle economic development,” councilman Barry Flachsbart wrote in a letter to state Rep. Jill Schupp.

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