Arch tax
3:42 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

Arch Tax Goes To City Voters

Supporters of a sales tax increase to fund an upgrade of the Arch grounds, along with local parks and trails, are gearing up for a two-and-a-half month campaign.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted today 20-3-1 today put the measure on the April 6 ballot, when it will also be considered in St. Louis County. Aldermen Sam Moore, Antonio French and Scott Ogilvie voted no, and Ald. Terry Kennedy voted present. Two aldermen were absent.

The idea of using local money to fund the Arch grounds project, which is on federal property, is controversial. In debate last week on the measure, French argued that m0ney could go to other, more local needs.

But Peter Sortino, the former head of the Danforth Foundation who is now coordinating the campaign says parks are local needs - and that's where supporters will focus.

"I think the issue of parks and the ability to improve them with more revenue and capital improvements is extremely popular," Sortino said.

Money will play a large role in the campaign, which Sortino says is mostly about education. Earlier this month, a campaign committee formed for the vote received $100,000 from the booster group Civic Progress. Civic Progress itself has received more than $360,000 in large donations in the last month alone. 

But Ald. Phyllis Young, who helped shepherd the bill through the Board of Aldermen, says grassroots efforts will also be important.

"Young people who recognize the Arch as a symbol of our region and want to say that 'Look, St. Louis has some real positive things going' and this will only enhance that," Young said.

The tax must pass in both St. Louis city and county to take effect. It will not be considered in St. Charles County. If approved, it will raise about $30 million a year.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann