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Poll: Support 3/16th Cent Sales Tax For Arch Grounds & City/County Parks?

March 17, 2013 Featured, Parks, Politics/Policy, STL Region, Taxes 11 Comments
Concept drawing at Arch grounds
Concept drawing of changes at Arch grounds

In two weeks voters in St. Louis City & St. Louis County will be asked to approve a 3/16th of a cent sales tax. The ballot language reads:

For the purpose of increasing safety, security, and public accessibility for the Gateway Arch grounds and local, county, and regional parks and trails for families and disabled and elderly visitors, and for providing expanded activities and improvements of such areas, shall St. Louis County join such other of St. Charles County and the City of St. Louis to impose a three sixteenths (3/16) of one cent sales tax in addition to the existing one-tenth (1/10) of one cent sales tax applied to such purposes, with sixty percent of the revenues derived from the added tax allocated to the Metropolitan Park and Recreation District for Gateway Arch grounds and other regional park and trail improvements, and the remaining forty percent allocated to St. Louis County for local and county park improvements as authorized by the County Council of St. Louis County, with such tax not to include the sale of food and prescription drugs and to be subject to an independent annual public audit? (source

Originally the tax proposal was also supposed to be on the St. Charles County ballot but they didn’t add it. The measure must pass in both St. Louis County and St. Louis City to take affect. For more information on Prop P see yesonpropp.com.

For the poll this week I’d like to see how readers feel about this proposed tax increase. The poll, as always, is in the right sidebar.

– Steve Patterson

  • JZ71

    This hits on two hot-button issues for me, “dedicated” sales taxes and expecting “other people” to pay taxes that don’t benefit them directly. The job of government is to collect taxes, create a budget and deliver services in a fair and equitable fashion. Some services are more appealing to voters (parks, police) than others (pensions for city workers, social services). So instead of our “leaders” making the hard decisions, tough choices, about how to spend one large, finite pot of money, the voters are repeatedly asked to increase their taxes, again, “by just a little bit more”, to fund some attractive project, most likely, in perpetuity. The reality is people’s willingness and ability to pay taxes is finite – in the city, we already pay income taxes at the federal, state AND local levels, sales taxes that exceed 10% on certain purchases (meals in restaurants, plus tip) PLUS property taxes on both real and personal property! The well is running dry and people (who can) are looking at lower-cost / lower-taxed areas to move to.

    The other half of the equation is that the arch grounds are federal property, and the bulk of this increase will be directed toward projects that should be funded at the federal level, not primarily from local resources. Local and regional parks are used by local residents. Most of us have already made our obligatory visit to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, much like visiting Mt. Rushmore or the Liberty Bell, and most of us will only be going back when we have out-of-town visitors who want to go. I would vote for a local sales tax that exclusively funded greenways and local parks, things that I use on a regular basis, and I would support increased funding in the federal budget for the National Park Service, but this proposal isn’t much different from some city in the county wanting to implement a TIF to build a shopping center / attract a Walmart, just to collect sales taxes from non-residents to pay for services “their” residents want!

    • http://urbanreviewstl.com/ Steve Patterson

      I’m still undecided but your facts are wrong, only 30% will be used at the Arch grounds. From the campaign FAQ: “40 percent will go the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County to improve local parks. County park improvement funds will also be awarded to municipalities in the county. 60 percent will go to Great Rivers Greenways with half for the Gateway Arch improvements and half to protection natural area and wildlife habitat and improve regional trails.”

      • JZ71

        You’re right, I’m confused. As tpekren notes, this was structured “by throwing enough things into the pot that everybody gets a piece of the pie.” As such, other voters will likely be just as confused, and, many times, confused voters just vote no . . . .

        • http://urbanreviewstl.com/ Steve Patterson

          You may well be right about that. After a sales tax for transit failed in St. Louis County the second campaign did an excellent job explaining the need to voters, haven’t seen that in this case. As I understand it, this tax would raise money to provide our local match only, the bulk of the funding would be federal.

    • tpekren

      I can see your point about a National Park being Federal so therefore they should pay for it. The reality is the Federal Gov is broke and the last thing it will start worrying is about Arch grounds. Which would be fine with me, rather see Federal dollars go into dowtown streetcar and new buses. However, The new reality is that locals are going to have to decide on what a national park is worth to them and how to support it, even if it takes a local revenue source. In other words, The region is going to have to find a way to help improve and maintain Arch Grounds. That is not all bad in my opinion.

      Which gets to the part I agree with, the Arch Tax proposal is a bad idea and really can’t understand it other than a convenient way to raise revenue by throwing enough things into the pot that everybody gets a piece of the pie. BAD POLICY written all over this and believe it will defeated soundly. Kinda reminds of the Highway Sales Tax coming out of the Missouri Senate last week. Unfortunately, still own a house in St. Louis county but not a resident anymore so won’t be able to vote no on it.
      What should have been done? I say should have because this will knock any decent future proposal to increase Great River Greenway funding another ten years down the road before being entertained. I honestly think a smaller tax proposal (throw out the county/local parks) strictly related the Great River Greenways would have found support by all three counties. Its a great plan/local investment that provides regional benefits that could have included targeted amounts for the North Trestle, North and South River trails into and through the Arch Grounds to improve access, and so on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ed-Golterman/1533739998 Ed Golterman

    Deceptive fraud. Close down this internet rag.

    • http://urbanreviewstl.com/ Steve Patterson

      Deceptive fraud? What the hell are you talking about?

  • Daniel Layton

    Scott Ogilvie had a nice post about this topic here: (http://ward24stl.com/confused-by-plans-for-the-arch-grounds/). If the “lid” is funded and the Great Rivers trail is funded, I can’t figure out why we need this exactly. I wouldn’t mind giving extra money to Great Rivers or to local parks, but I’m not interested in giving money towards a federal property in which the city has no direct stake. Furthermore, the amount of money requested has not been justified, in my view, for any of these aspects of the sales tax increase. I have no problem with dedicated taxes, but I’m not going to vote for them unless what exactly it’s dedicated to is very well explained and justified.

    • Daniel Layton

      And I should add that I’m not interested in $500 million being spent on any project that doesn’t remove I-70 from downtown.

    • http://twitter.com/YASTLBlog Kevin Barbeau

      “The other stuff almost seems tacked on to make it more appealing.”

      It really does, doesn’t it? We’ve seen in recent years that both the City and County are certainly willing to support local parks, trails and transit through a sales tax. The inclusion of Great Rivers Greenway and the City/County Parks system definitely seems like an attempt to key in on that, making the tax for the City+Arch+River project more palatable (a project, incidentally, that was initially pitched as one done entirely with federal and private funds).

      My concern is that by tying into the Arch project, a failure at the polls next week will damage Great Rivers’ ability to effectively push its own tax package in the not-too-distant future. In particular, I’m thinking of their awesome Trestle project — which I would GLADLY SUPPORT!

  • Parkman

    Several thoughts. First a big chunk, if you read the proposition this is unclear what percentage (part of 60%), will go to a FEDERAL PARK. Is our next goal to start funding the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. If we feel more money is needed at the arch then contact your US Rep and Senator. My second point is here is more money earmarked for a specific department, ie Parks, to “improve” them. I can tell you what will happen. The parks will lower their budget for parks because they will have a new source of income and they will not have any more money. Do you remember the lottery money going to the “schools”. The problem is not that the money doesn’t go there, it is the government allocates less for schools and parks because they have this new source. So basically it’s a wash with no improvements and a new tax. SO my vote is a big NO.

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