New bill would tax St. Louis city, county residents to pay for zoo

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The St. Louis Zoo welcomes people from everywhere, but a new proposed sales tax hike would affect just St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis. Some residents say that's just not fair.

"It kind of feels like it always falls to us to be the one to pick up that sort of slack," says city resident Kate Eckelkamp.

She already pays a portion of her property tax to the zoo.

Zoo officials are calling for a 1/8th of a percent sale tax to fund infrastructure costs and House Bill 935 would cap that at 1 percent.

Representative Terry McCreery from Olivette opposes the plan, saying this tax would put more of burden on low-income folks who are already paying for the zoo, even if they don't use it.

"Sales taxes, in my opinion, have really gotten out of control there. There are places around St. Louis County where the sales taxes cumulatively are up close to 10 percent," she says.

The original bill would have included surrounding counties like St. Charles, Franklin, and Jefferson, but they were written out in later drafts.

Visitors like Cyra Lohman, a Waterloo resident, say her family comes quite a bit and ends up spending money within the community. She says wouldn't mind the extra tax if it helped keep the zoo free.

Lohman goes on to say visitors come from all over the world and buy items within the county, so they would shoulder some of sales tax burden.

Part of the House Bill would let the zoo charge city and county residents admission if the sales tax measure doesn't pass, but that would only be or zoological facilities, programs, or events that aren't on the zoo grounds.

"Maybe if we could use the ‘use tax’ instead of ‘sales tax,’ to find something else, but I don't know. I don't always agree with the way they do taxes in the city," Eckelkamp says.

HB 935 passed through the house on Tuesday and if it continues through the legislature then voters in St. Louis County and the city will get to decide if they want to see a sales tax hike.