Dec 01

A Message from the County Executive: Thank You to Our Employees

Posted on December 1, 2022 at 11:13 AM by County Executive

As we come upon the close of 2022, I want to take this time to publicly thank all the employees at St. Charles County Government for their dedication and service. Like many businesses and organizations across the country, your County Government has experienced staffing shortages that have presented challenges and tested our perseverance. 

As I write this, we have 149 open positions across 30 departments, with the biggest needs in Corrections, Emergency Communications (911 Dispatch), Police, Highway and Parks. The County Council will be approving the 2023 budget this month which has for their consideration a major overhaul of starting salaries and compensation for the County’s workforce. This is needed for County government to compete with others in the region, and to recruit and retain exceptional employees.

Despite these staffing issues, all departments have continued to provide the excellent service you have come to expect, and I am proud of that. Here are just some of their major accomplishments for 2022:

  • POLICE DEPARTMENT: With American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, extended School Resource Officer (SRO) placement to include every public school in unincorporated St. Charles County, as well as Augusta Elementary School in the Washington School District, and schools in Dardenne Prairie and Weldon Spring. To learn more, click here.
  • POLICE, SHERIFF, CORRECTIONS: Completed deployment of body cameras to improve transparency and public trust. The system also includes forward- and rear-facing cameras and routers for law enforcement vehicles.
  • EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS: From January through October of this year, dispatchers answered 57,733 9-1-1 calls, and dispatched 57,617 police-related incidents and 53,627 fire and EMS-related incidents. 9-1-1 calls were answered, on average, within 3.3 seconds and 99.1 percent were answered within 10 seconds or less. National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard is that all calls should be answered within 15 seconds 90 percent of the time. 
  • PUBLIC HEALTH: While down nearly 40 percent in staffing, all services were continued with little reduction of hours of operation. 
  • PARKS: Parks personnel designed, engineered, constructed, and opened Oglesby Park in Foristell in a record-breaking seven months. They even nearly filled a 12-acre lake in the middle of July and had fish in it for the opening!
  • ROADS AND TRAFFIC: Installation and deployment of the Emergency Vehicle Preemption program is near completion. The program provides “green” light priority to approaching emergency vehicles, allowing first responders to reach their destinations quicker and safer. This includes upgraded technology at 351 intersections and in 200 emergency vehicles.
  • WORKFORCE AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: In addition to organizing and publicizing the department’s move to a new location, employees provided 16,386 individual services to 3,097 clients and assisted 342 employers with 5,290 different services.
  • HIGHWAY: Despite being 30 percent down in staffing, the department increased the number of work orders addressed/repaired and maintained the number of roads resurfaced compared to 2021. 
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: In response to the flash flooding event on July 26, Community Development staff conducted a survey of more than 2,300 structures within three days and found 25 with major damage and 57 with minor damage. Staff also secured a $15 million CDBG-DR grant application for voluntary buyout of flood-damaged homes from the 2019 flood.

While this is a look back, and the list of accomplishments goes on, we’re continuing to move forward. You can read more by perusing our website, reviewing past issues of this newsletter or reading our press releases. You can also stay up to date by following us on social media. And watch for the County’s Impact Report to the Community that will be mailed to all St. Charles County households in the spring.

Again, many thanks to our employees for a successful 2022. I wish all of them, and all of you, a happy, healthy holiday season.

Nov 02

A Message from the County Executive: Recognizing Our Dispatchers

Posted on November 2, 2022 at 1:30 PM by County Executive

You may remember hearing about the St. Peters man who was trapped in his truck during the flooding this summer. He credited, among other first responders, St. Charles County Emergency Dispatcher Michael Buckmore for helping save his life. Michael stayed on the phone with the man for 45 minutes until paramedics were able to reach him. “It’s all part of the job,” Michael told a reporter who covered the two meeting in person.

Last month, St. Charles County Emergency Communications Dispatcher-in-Training Natalie Wagster received a call from a husband whose wife was in active labor. He told Natalie they had waited too long and couldn’t make it to the hospital in time. Natalie ensured an ambulance was dispatched and stayed on the phone with them, giving the husband instructions on how to make his wife feel more comfortable and telling him what to do to prepare for childbirth. Paramedics arrived and the family welcomed a baby girl – their fourth child – at home at 2:01 a.m., just seven minutes after the initial call.

You may have heard about the St. Charles County Criminal Interdiction Task Force, a countywide initiative formed in early 2021 to address the uptick in auto break-ins and thefts. Dispatchers play a key role with the task force, as all communication involving these operations comes through one channel. Dispatchers relay information about criminal activity, pursuit of these criminals, and make certain police departments across the county are aware of activities during the operation. They are instrumental in assisting police in catching these thieves.

It takes a special person to be a dispatcher. They truly are the first responders, before police, fire, and ambulance. They remain calm in the most stressful of situations.

As St. Charles County taxpayers, you and I are invested in this service through a voter-approved Dispatch and Alarm tax. I think it’s important for you to know that the County provides exceptional services and results.

Emergency Communications Director Jeff Smith shared his department’s most recent data with me and it’s impressive. In September, dispatchers answered 5,755 911 calls and dispatched 5,305 police-related incidents and 5,373 fire and EMS-related incidents. That’s roughly 191 911-calls per day per day, and roughly 355 separate incidents being dispatched. 911 calls were answered, on average, within 3.3 seconds and 99.1 percent were answered within 10 seconds or less. National Emergency Number Association (NENA) standard is that all calls should be answered within 15 seconds 90 percent of the time.

From January through September of this year, dispatchers answered 51,793 911 calls and dispatched 51,807 police-related incidents and 48,211 fire and EMS-related incidents.

Like many employers across the country, St. Charles County is having difficulty filling positions in several areas. Emergency Communications is one of them. At full capacity, Emergency Communications would have 44 dispatchers. The department currently has 28. Those dispatchers work long hours, helping people who are in need, saving lives and helping deliver babies. I, for one, am beyond grateful for these selfless, caring individuals.

Perhaps being a dispatcher is a great fit for you or someone you know. Give Emergency Communications a call, they’d be more than happy to talk with you about what it takes to become one. You may have a calling to help others in this way.

Michael says he became a dispatcher so he could make a difference in the lives of others, and I suspect the same is true for Natalie and all our dispatchers. They certainly are doing that every day as they provide this critical service to the residents and visitors in St. Charles County.

Oct 03

A Message from the County Executive: Doing Our Part to Reduce Impacts of Used Vehicle Shortages

Posted on October 3, 2022 at 3:51 PM by County Executive

In most settings, and especially in our economic climate, $810,000 is a large sum of money. And while those extra funds would certainly benefit our tax pools for Road & Bridge and Dispatch & Alarm, the nearly 30 percent year-over-year increase of vehicle personal property tax values is quite literally out of the control of our taxpayers. It is, however, in the control of St. Charles County Government to set its 2022 tax rates, and we have worked to help alleviate this burden by keeping property tax revenues on vehicles the same as 2021, and keep $810,000 in the collective pockets of the public.

Anyone who has purchased, sold, or considered purchased or selling, a motor vehicle in this past year knows the value of existing vehicles has greatly increased, as a shortage of new cars available has caused a dramatic change in the market. With the increase of trade-in values reflected in the National Automobile Dealers’ Association (NADA) Official Used Car Guide, the County Assessor is required by state statute to value and assess motor vehicles based on those values, which, as previously mentioned, saw a sharp rise of nearly 30 percent on average. 

In reality, yes, $810,000 is a large sum of money, but that only reflects the additional amount of taxes that would have been collected by our County Government. That means the rest of the line items on your tax bill—school districts, fire districts, municipalities, and other political subdivisions—still may see a dramatic increase from 2021. While we have encouraged these entities to proceed as we have, if they choose not to, the windfall will result in an additional $24 million tax burden on our county residents. 

What we did for the Road & Bridge and Dispatch & Alarm taxes is a small thing, but we did everything our powers allow to assist other jurisdictions in rectifying this overarching problem. It goes without saying: Inflation and shortages take a toll on our economy, but identifying where we can avoid additional burden on taxpayers is part of our responsibility. I hope our neighboring taxing subdivisions agree, and I hope our residents and businesses find this as a relief in this challenging time.

In all probability, this same dilemma will resurface in 2023. Used car prices have not retreated and the vehicle values used for your 2023 personal property tax bills will be determined by the October 2022 NADA Guide. As we saw this year, relying on public jurisdictions to do the right thing for their constituents may be wishful thinking. St. Charles County is the only jurisdiction we know of that voluntarily rolled its revenues back to eliminate the effect of inflation on motor vehicles. The ultimate remedy to this problem can be provided by our State Legislature during the 2023 Legislative Session. We do not in any way support the total elimination of personal property tax as some in Jefferson City attempted during the last session. To do so would be harmful to the essential services provided by all taxing jurisdictions. The legislature needs to revise current law with a more equitable method of vehicle valuation that eliminates the inflation-based tax hike residents will see this year and next year if the Legislature fails to act.