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"Arch Tax" Expected to Pass City's Board of Aldermen Today

Categories: Politics
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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. 

The 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!"

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This is part of CityArchRivers $380 million plan
It 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, too.

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.

Young 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.

Young 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."

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