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ZMD Sets 2014 Tax Rates And Continues Discussion On Admission

Board members easily agreed to setting tax rate but debated value of allowing subdistricts to charge admission fees to non St. Louis City or County residents.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

Tensions among Zoo-Museum District board members appear to have faded over the last year. The board met Monday to discuss the 2014 subdistrict tax rates, hear reports from committees and the executive director, and discuss past and future business of the board. 

Board members -- Robert Lowery appeared by speaker phone and Gloria Wessels was absent -- voted unanimously to approve an 8 cent property tax on behalf of the St. Louis Art Museum and the Zoo. The board voted to approve a 3.99 cent property tax for The Science Center, Botanical Gardens and Missouri History Museum.

The board also revisited the idea of allowing ZMD subdistricts to charge admission to people who are not residents of St. Louis or St. Louis County. A paper written in early September by Board Member Ben Uchitelle,  “Time to Change,” argued in favor of the elective to charge nonresidents. He noted that similar institutions across the United States charge admission and the change was necessary to maintain the institutions as world class. He also argued a case for fairness.

“We have a situation 52 percent of the metropolitan area are paying 100 percent of the taxes and that’s eminently unfair,” said Uchitelle. He believes it’s problematic for Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Clair counties to benefit from the taxes of St. Louis and St. Louis County residents.

Board Chair Thelma Cook remained unconvinced. She said she spoke with all subdistricts but the Botanical Garden and they remain uninterested in charging admission. 

The board resolved to send Uchitelle’s paper to the subdistricts allowing them to respond. The board stressed that no action is being taken. And it was noted that the state legislature would have to act.

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