At issue are claims made by St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page, who penned a letter to the County Executive on November 13, 2017, detailing his concerns.
Page’s letter reads in part, “Although you present a balanced budget for 2018, page 34 of your budget states that a surplus in the revenue from the public safety tax is projected to cover the budget deficit this year, but absent any changes to the revenue structure (i.e. property tax rate) or programs and services (service reduction or elimination), this portion of reserves will be exhausted by 2019.”
Page indicated in his letter, based on the budget document that 2019 budget might face a deficit of $18 million.
Stenger countered Page’s claims during a news conference on Tuesday in Clayton. He stressed that the county budget is sound and that under his administration; county government will not increase taxes or cut services.
“County government is in solid financial shape. We have adequate measures that will be taken to meet any genuine fiscal challenges that may arise.” Stenger said.
Stenger also called Page’s claims “election year politics.” He also speculated Page’s motivation behind his claims, “He has been receiving a great deal of advice from Gary Earls. Gary Earls is quite literally at every council meeting that we have in the third to fifth row. He was the previous Chief Operating Officer for the County under the Dooley administration. At the time that Charlie Dooley was claiming there was a financial crisis in the county, it was an effort to increase taxes. I think that may be the case here as well.”
Stenger warns that if Page attempts to raise taxes, he will “shut him down.”
This isn’t the first time Stenger and Page have been at odds with each other. Back in September, Stenger called for the removal of County Auditor Mark Tucker, citing he lacks the experience necessary for the position. He also noted that Tucker hasn’t produced a single audit in six months.
Tucker was brought to the council for the position by Page.
This was followed by a lawsuit filed last month against Stenger and two other county officials, alleging stalled oversight and blocking the County Auditor from hiring new staff.
Stenger said during Tuesday’s news conference that he anticipates a motion to dismiss the lawsuit will be filed.