ST. LOUIS - Voters in St. Louis County are being asked if they will approve a one-eighth percent sales tax to fund and to help secure the zoo's future.
Both proponents and opponents of Proposition Z want the zoo to do well. But, they differ on how to go about it.
Proposition Z would raise taxes about a penny for every eight dollars spent in St. Louis County and would raise approximately twenty million annually. Zoo CEO Dr. Jeffrey Bonner says the money is a necessity for the zoo.
“To keep this zoo great we need a yes vote on Prop Z. We've got issues with aging infrastructure and sustainability issues with our collections,” said Dr. Bonner.
He says the money would also be used on an expansion near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in north county. The new campus would be used for animal conservation and species preservation. County residents would not be charged a fee to enter.
“We've explored a lot of different options for sustaining the zoo and one was to charge admission. But as many people know, it's against the law to do it and the law would be very difficult to change,” Dr. Bonner said.
Former Clayton Mayor and opponent of Proposition Z, Ben Uchitelle, says the zoo should go to the state legislature to get the law changed and charge admission. He also says this tax is only for St. Louis County. Nobody else.
“Another minus of sales tax, there will be no outside supervision whatsoever. And another reason, there’s no sunset of provision so it could go on forever,” said Uchitelle.
Uchitelle also points to a current property tax
“We already have a big property tax which county and city have been paying since 1972. Twenty-one million for the zoo,” Uchitelle said.
But, Dr. Jeff Bonner says that the 21-million dollars is split between five organizations and over the past 10 years the property revenue has been flat while expenses are up 36 percent.
Bonner says they will go back to other counties and the city in the next legislative session and see if they can’t get the proposition extended to those communities. But for now, it’s on St. Louis County voters to decide what they want.