City-county merger: good or bad idea?


In 1876, St. Louis city and St. Louis county separated in what was known as “The Great Divorce.” Given the circumstances at the time, this was a good deal for taxpayers within the city. However, a lot can change in 138 years.

Spoiler alert! A lot changed. The separation, which was prompted by the city’s then population of 310,000 refusing to pay expenses of the county’s population of 27,000, is now in favor of the county, which now has a population of 1,000,000 while the city only holds 310,000 people. The county also heavily outweighs the city in overall quality. The city has earned itself a reputation as being one of the most dangerous in the world and it has been economically declining over the past 60 or so years.

Simply put, the circumstances have changed, and the idea of unification of the city and the county is much more attractive to people looking to improve St. Louis’s image.

So what would a unification do?

A unification would do a lot of things. Instead of operating separately, St. Louis county and St. Louis city would operate as one unit with one government. That means that there would be an overhaul of changes in tax codes, building codes, property values, redistricting, etc. Not to mention the population would be substantially increasing to 1.3 million people, which would bring St. Louis’s national population ranking from #58 to #9.

It’s impossible to tell exactly what changes would be made as far as codes and regulations, but considering the difference in quality from the bad parts of the city to the good parts of the county, the burden of increased taxes would be put on the city’s population.

The city’s crime rate would also drastically decrease. A merger would take St. Louis off of the infamous “Most Dangerous Cities in America” list. However, mixing the crime rates from the city to the county would substantially increase the county’s crime rates. Increased crime rates mean more money taxed to the people in the county and increased insurance rates.

What you’re probably wondering is: “All this would do is cost everybody a bunch of money,” and you’re absolutely right – for now. The benefit of unification would take time to become noticeable, but it would inevitably work if if was done right. The city would become a safer place with a better economy, which is something St. Louis is desperate for considering its 9.9% unemployment rate.

So is it a good idea? If it was done right, St. Louis could eventually regain its national status as one of the most prominent cities in the United States, but it comes at the cost of money, patience, and change. On the flip side, if it doesn’t work, then the people of St. Louis would suffer for nothing. Would it be worth it?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Parkway School