Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Vote Tuesday for St. Louis Hills Special Business District.

South City Neighborhood Seeks Property Tax Increase for Infrastructure and Safety Improvements

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – A South City neighborhood is seeking to increase property taxes to fund area infrastructure and safety improvements.

The Special Business District Proposal

On Tuesday, St. Louis Hills voters will be asked to approve or deny a Special Business District, or SBD. At an average cost of around $190 annually for the average homeowner, the neighborhood plans to use the nearly $500,000 raised to fund park improvements in Francis and Willmore Parks, improve the neighborhood’s nightly off-duty cop patrol and establish promotional material for the neighborhood to draw in business, according to a sample budget posted to the SBD’s website.

Ensuring the Neighborhood’s Future

Don Orf with the local neighborhood association says the funds will ensure the neighborhood’s future.

“The City (of St. Louis) has limitations on funds,” Orf said. “This is something we can do now, today, for the future that gives us continuing investment in the neighborhood.”

Successful SBDs in St. Louis

St. Louis already has several neighborhoods that have approved the use of SBDs to generate revenue for community development. The list includes the Central West End, Soulard, and Holly Hills, which approved an SBD last year. The tax increase in St. Louis Hills is the lowest in the city, according to the SBD’s website.

Support from Residents

Several longtime residents of the area are in favor of the proposal, calling it a relatively small price to pay for the services provided. The SBD will tax a maximum of $250 per parcel of land.

“What we need is to bring businesses in the city, and if this will help support those businesses, that helps support our neighborhood,” Carrie Wegman said.

Concerns and Discussion

The SBD will be run by a rotating, appointed board, which will be approved by the Mayor “with consent of” the Board of Aldermen. Some residents worry the SBD isn’t spending enough on safety, which makes up 42% of the sample budget, in the wake of some recent high-profile violence, like the sexual assault of a six-year-old weeks ago near Francis Park.

St. Louis Police crime statistics do not show a large increase in neighborhood crime over the past four years, with no homicides in St. Louis Hills since at least the beginning of 2021.

“I just feel that I’m already paying enough taxes,” Karen Hilkerbaumer said. “Maybe if this breakdown (of the budget) would’ve been all security, then I might have been more in favor of voting for it.”

Election Details and Conclusion

Hilkerbaumer has been trying to spread the word about the election to her neighbors, so they can make an informed decision. The election takes place Tuesday at Buder Library at 4401 Hampton Avenue. If approved, the SBD would last for seven years initially, and it could be extended with a future vote.

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