Is this project worth a sales tax increase?
Last night, Daily RFT
asked Seventh Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Young
: Does the "Arch Tax" bill you're sponsoring have the votes to pass at Friday's meeting?
"If I'm counting properly, we have votes to pass it," she says. If that's correct, it will be up for a final board vote next week, as it will likely be
in the St. Louis County Council, too. Should it get the green light in both places, the historic proposal will go to voters on the April ballot.
And if it does, get ready for a wonky -- but very interesting -- debate.
To summarize: The "Arch Tax" is a proposal to hike up the sales tax by
three-sixteenths of one cent (or two pennies on every ten-dollar
purchase), for the next 20 years. As state legislators envisioned
it, the city, county and St. Charles County would all do this simultaneously, though right now, the measure looks doomed
in St. Charles County.
new tax revenues would be divvied up three ways: 40 percent for
sprucing up public parks, 30 percent to connect and maintain the
region's Great Rivers Greenway trails
, and 30 percent to renovate the Arch Grounds.
"But wait," you say, "I thought the 'lid' over I-70 connecting downtown to the Arch grounds was already financed!"
This is part of CityArchRivers $380 million plan
is, to the tune of $57 million. But CityArchRiver 2015, the nonprofit
that's organizing the renovation, has much bigger plans: They propose a $380 million
overhaul that would do things
like carve out a new museum entrance and make the pathways more wheelchair accessible.
The Arch Tax would raise some $11.5 million a year for this huge project.
Young says the measure would also induce more private donors to chip in,
Opposition to the proposal has taken on a few different forms. Some believe
the bill should be split up into a park tax and arch tax, and not all bundled together. Others question
the wisdom of raising local tax dollars to transform federal property, which we don't own.
says there were also fears that the tax would hand a bunch of money to a
project without much public oversight. However, she points out that the
Great Rivers Greenway board has decided
to formally create a 30-person advisory committee of citizens from the
whole metro area to provide input to CityArchRiver 2015.
says some of her colleagues' fears have been allayed, and that she's
optimistic the measure will take another step forward today.
"That's not to say there won't be some disagreement," she adds. "Because there always will be."