MO Legislative Session Ends

On Friday, May 12, 2023, the Missouri legislative session ended.

Sadly, the bill sponsored by our Representative Brad Christ was not passed. As a reminder, this bill would have ended the state-mandated practice that locks Crestwood into a never-ending contract with Affton Fire District to provide services to the annexed area of Crestwood (see below for more details).

To all of the residents that sent an email to our Senator requesting that he support this measure – I say THANK YOU. Your effort was incredible, and our message was heard loud and clear.

Because of your clear and overwhelming support, we now have commitments from AFPD, Representative Brad Christ, and Senator Doug Beck to meet with Crestwood this summer to find common ground and hopefully an agreement on this matter. I look forward to those meetings and will walk into them with the confidence of knowing that Crestwood residents overwhelmingly support this effort. Thank you!

Just to be clear – the level of service that AFPD provides is great. No complaints about that. The issue is that Crestwood could also provide that great service.

In 1997, voters approved Crestwood’s annexation of a portion of unincorporated St. Louis County that was within the Affton Fire Protection District (AFPD). When an annexation like this occurs in any other County in the state of Missouri, there is a transition period whereby fire and EMS service is transferred from the Fire District to the municipality (e.g. after 5 years). In St Louis County, however, a special law was enacted that requires the municipality to pay the Fire District annually to continue providing fire and EMS services on a continual, never-ending basis – forever.

In 1997 this arrangement arguably made sense. There were railroad tracks cutting through Crestwood that would have slowed emergency access to the annexed area whenever a train was passing. Also, the payment at the time was reasonable.

Now we are 26 years later, and this arrangement no longer makes sense from a good government standpoint, a financial standpoint, nor a public safety standpoint. Like a lot of legislation, the law of unintended consequences applies, and sometimes circumstances change, requiring reexamination. This is one of those times.

In the early 2000s, the railroad tracks were removed and replaced with Grants Trail, eliminating that obstacle.

The payment in 1997 was $147,752. It has now ballooned by over 400% to $619,229 in 2022 – more than double the rate of inflation. This was due to multiple tax increases by AFPD, including a 26-cent tax increase in 2012, a 25-cent tax increase in 2017, and another 10-cent tax increase in 2022.

It should be noted that Crestwood’s property tax rate is 55.8 cents per $100 of valuation. That’s the same amount for all Crestwood residents, regardless of what part of town they live. This 55.8 cents helps to provide ALL city services including police, fire/EMS, parks/recreation, public works, courts, and administration.

Just to compare - AFPD’s property tax rate is $1.223 per $100 of valuation and only goes to support their fire/EMS services within their district. Half of this amount, 61 cents, is a result of those recent AFPD tax increases.

Since AFPD is providing service for the “annexed area” of the city, the city must pay them the total amount that all the homes and businesses in this area would have paid if they were not part of Crestwood. Residents in this area do NOT pay this as part of their property tax. They just pay the 55.8 cents that everyone else pays.

Crestwood taxpayers have paid AFPD over $6 million so far and will more than double that amount in the next 8-10 years without legislative relief.

Currently, the City of Crestwood provides all municipal services to the annexed area, except for fire service. Our police officers patrol the area, our public works department maintains the streets and plows the snow. Our residents call us first for problems and expect us to be providing their services.

The only aspect we do not provide is fire/EMS service – yet our department stands ready and is willing to do so. Crestwood could take over fire/EMS service to this area with no additional employees or equipment needed; at the same or better level of service including EMS transport, emergency response, and inspections.

I am optimistic that our efforts this summer will yield positive results. Stay tuned.