CLAYTON, Mo. – A vote by the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday allows the county to move forward in a process aimed at securing a nearly $2 billion development by Boeing in exchange for tax breaks.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has supported the development. He said Tuesday’s vote is an important step in the process.
“It allows us to move forward and collect information from all the taxing districts,” he said.
Critics, including government watchdog Tom Sullivan, question whether Boeing, Missouri’s largest manufacturer, needs tax incentives.
“It seems the company does not, or at least, the company has not made the case,” said Sullivan.
Page insists that bringing a new aerospace production line would reaffirm St. Louis County as an advanced manufacturing leader and add jobs beyond Boeing.
“It’s a big part of our economy, and we need to continue to maintain our leadership in the country,” Page said.
The vote was 5-1 in favor of moving forward with the process. Council chairwoman Shalonda Webb abstained from voting. She is a Boeing engineer. Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway was the lone dissenter.
The vote came at the same time some council members attempted to pass a property tax freeze for home-owning senior citizens eligible for Social Security. Council member Mark Harder tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill earlier this year.
Councilman Dennis Hancock reintroduced the measure on Tuesday. Hancock and Harder believe the measure would help keep seniors from losing their homes due to increases in taxes on their homes.
“The whole point behind this is to help those folks who need help to stay in their homes,” Hancock said.
St. Louis County resident Joe Moehlenhoff agrees. He told the council that seniors are being forced to choose between paying their taxes and buying food and medicine.
“Our property taxes continue to go up every other year,” Moehlenhoff said.
One concern raised about the freeze is that testing would not be allowed under the current state law. That means the freeze would include homeowners with the means to pay any increases.
There have also been concerns about the anticipated effect a freeze would have on tax revenue for schools, fire departments, and municipalities.
Hancock believes revenue from the legalization of marijuana and the proposed Boeing development would offset those concerns.