Sales tax might help pay for Arch project

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by Russell Kinsaul / News 4

AP

Posted on March 15, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 3:47 PM

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis-area voters could go to the polls later this year to consider a sales tax that would fund much of the $553 million being sought for improvements to the St. Louis riverfront and the Gateway Arch grounds.

A bill moving through the Missouri Legislature would allow for the vote, possibly in November, to raise sales tax in St. Louis city and St. Louis and St. Charles counties by three-sixteenths of a cent.

Because of its symbolic meaning, many area residents say they’d support it for the right price.

“If it’s small I’d support it because the Arch attracts a lot of tourists to the city,” said Melissa Jones.

Susan Trautman with the Greenway District says only 30 percent of the tax would go to the Archgrounds. The rest would go towards improving local and regional parks and trails.

She said the tax idea only came up a few months ago when it was clear donations and state and federal funds wouldn’t be enough.

“It became clear we would need a significant local investment to pay for the project,” said Trautman.

The tax increase would only last 20 years and collect enough money to pay for a $120 million bond issue to help pay for the project.

There are some, though, who don’t think it’s the tax payers’ responsibility to pay for the improvements.

“It’s a national park, so it’s up to the federal government to care for it as it does other federal parks, not local tax payers,” said St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.

Aldermen and the county councils would ultimately decide whether to put the issue on the ballot. Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois might also eventually vote on the proposal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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