St. Louis Public Radio News
3:13 pm
Wed May 26, 2010

Aldermanic committee approves tax breaks for Peabody Coal

St. Louis – Legislation to provide Peabody Coal with a series of tax breaks sailed through a panel of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Wednesday.

The measure still needs approval by the entire board and the signature of Mayor Francis Slay. But the incentives were approved without opposition by the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning committee, and Slay's administration was heavily involved in negotiations for the breaks.

Under the proposal, Peabody would pay no property taxes on $61 million in upgrades to its headquarters at 701 Market St. It would also receive a 50 percent abatement on the payroll and earnings taxes of any new hires.

Deputy mayor Barb Geisman defended the use of tax credits in a year when the city is trying to close a budget deficit that could be as high as $50 million.

"If the city were to lose Peabody, the city would lose not only the $1.2 million a year in earnings and payroll tax that Peabody now pays, but it would also lose, and the school board would lose, revenue from the real estate taxes on the building," said Geisman. Peabody, she said, was receiving incentive offers from other cities. It currently employs 500 people downtown.

That's double the number that worked at headquarters 10 years ago, Peabody treasurer Walter Hawkins told the committee, and further expansions are likely as Peabody's revenue grows.

"We're bringing people in from literally round the world. We've all started moving into the city and participating in the schools and in the cultural institutions," Hawkins said, adding that he had recently moved into a residence on Skinker Blvd. in the Central West End.

Peabody must still reach a deal with the building's landlord. Hawkins did not give a timeline for those negotiations. The landlord, a California company, received $10 million in federal New Market Tax Credits to finance other improvements to the building.