St. Louis County Council passes zoo tax bill proposal

The St. Louis County Council at its weekly meeting on Tuesday passed legislation that would put a question on the ballot asking if county residents are in favor of a sales tax that would go towards a new Saint Louis Zoo facility in north St. Louis County.

The legislation which was passed 5-2, would call for the holding of a election on Nov. 6 in St. Louis County to ask voters if they would approve a county-wide sales tax of one-eighth of 1 percent for the purpose of taking care of the zoo’s animals.

This comes after weeks of debate between council members asking if the language was clear enough for voters voting in favor for the tax, if they would still have free admission inside the new facility that plans on being built.

According to the newly amended bill that was passed Tuesday, any visitor to the new facility who wasn’t a resident of a county that had the tax on the ballot, would have to pay for an admission fee. This means if the proposal is passed in St. Louis County, the county’s residents would have free admission to new north St. Louis County facility.

Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, who was in favor of the legislation, stated even if residents vote against the sales tax — there are other ways the zoo could fund the new facility.

“I do know that the Saint Louis Zoo has been researching two different options. This is certainly not the only option to fund things and if this does not pass, they will go back to the drawing board,” Wasinger said. “The option presented today is to allow voters decide if this is the way to fund the future of the zoo’s needs and I think the zoo has made a credible case for allowing the voters to consider it.”

Councilman Mark Harder, voted against the new tax stating that the zoo should rely on other options when it came to funding the new facility.

“I feel that this is not the first and best way to ask for money for this organization,” Harder said. “I have nothing against the zoo, I love the zoo, love the museums, I just don’t see this as the time or place for tax for something like this when other venues of financing has not been exhausted. When you come before residents of St. Louis County for a aggressive tax like this — it should be the last resort.”

According to the Saint Louis Zoo, the new area would feature off-site conservation breeding facilities, and the public element offered often includes a wildlife and safari experience.

In March, the Saint Louis Zoo Association and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 announced that they have entered into a sale agreement for the union’s 452-acre complex in north St. Louis County for $7.1 million.

According to the zoo, the funds were allocated using privately donated funds. The space would be used for the zoo’s continued effort to conserve animals.

Once the assessment is finalized, which would take several months, the zoo will develop the property for the purposes of dedicated care for threatened and endangered animals.

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