St. Louis County Councilwoman’s resolution clarifies use of potential Saint Louis Zoo sales tax

A new resolution that hopes to clarify the newly passed legislation that asks St. Louis County residents on this year’s ballot whether or not they support a one-eighth of 1 percent sales tax will be introduced at the St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday.

The original legislation that was passed at last week’s meeting 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 for the purpose of taking care of the zoo’s animals.

According to the resolution’s sponsor, Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray, if the sales tax gets passed — all revenue collected from the tax would be deposited in the treasury of St. Louis County for the use of the new zoo district and kept separate from other county revenue.

In addition, the Commission of the Zoological Subdistrict will have exclusive control of the expenditure of all county sales tax collected for the subdistrict.

The new subdistrict which would include a Conservation and Animal Science Center located in North St. Louis County would be constructed for the purpose of conserving endangered species.

The sales tax revenue would also go towards improvements for Saint Louis Zoo in Forest Park in regards to necessary infrastructure maintenance cost and improvements, according to Winthrop B. Reed, III, chairman of the St. Louis Zoological Subdistrict Commission.

The original bill that was passed last week states that 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 the new North St. Louis County facility.

Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, who was in favor of the legislation, stated last week that 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.