The proposed merger of St. Louis city and county has one municipality considering a drastic measure — merging into an adjacent county.
St. Louis Public Radio reports that Chesterfield City Council members this week voted to direct staff to look into the steps necessary to merge into neighboring St. Charles County. Staff members also were directed to look into steps necessary to form a new, independent county for Chesterfield, a well-to-do suburb in far western St. Louis County.
“This is a very proactive step to see what options are available to our city,” council member Ben Keathley said. He added that consolidation could be good for the St. Louis region, “but we need to be smart about it.”
A nonprofit group called Better Together on Monday revealed its plan, which it hopes to put to a statewide vote in November 2020.
St. Louis city and county were separated by a vote in August 1876. Several previous reunification efforts have failed.
The merger would immediately boost St. Louis’ standing. The city now has around 309,000 residents, making it the nation’s 62nd largest city. Adding St. Louis County’s 1 million residents would make St. Louis the 10th largest city, just behind Dallas.
Advocates say a single streamlined government would more efficiently serve all residents and help create better economic development. The task force recommendation says a merger also would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The plan has plenty of opposition. Democratic St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger favors it, but some county leaders and many officials in the county’s 88 municipalities do not.
The proposal calls for creation of a new class of local government in Missouri called a metropolitan city. Rather than separate governing bodies, the metropolitan city of St. Louis would have a single mayor, a single elected prosecutor and 33 council members. Fifty-five police departments would be consolidated into one.
Current county municipalities would be preserved as “municipal districts” that would still levy utility and property taxes, operate parks, collect trash and serve other typical municipal functions. But the municipalities would lose authority over things like sales tax, courts and police.