CHICAGO – St. Louis voters will decide whether to raise taxes to fund a light-rail expansion and other projects and to cover the city's contribution for a professional soccer stadium.
On Thursday, a circuit court judge signed off on the measure.
The city's board of aldermen approved the measures earlier this month and Mayor Francis Slay signed the bills, but the actions came weeks after the official deadline to get measures on the April 4 ballot, which is why they required court approval. The city argued that severe weather had delayed some meetings over the proposals.
The half-cent economic development sales tax measure would raise about $20 million annually with 60% going to fund a light-rail line for the Metrolink system. The funds would allow the city to better compete for federal dollars to help fund the $700 million first phase of a nine-mile extension project.
The remaining revenue raised by the tax would finance neighborhood revitalization projects, city infrastructure work, and workforce development and public safety initiatives.
"The goals are both to give underserved people a hand up to a career and upward mobility and to address the root causes of crime," city documents said. A simple majority must approve the measures.
If the sales tax measure is approved it would trigger a corresponding half-cent increase in the city's use tax imposed on businesses purchases outside the state. On the ballot, voters would be asked whether the city should use the $4 million in annual revenue that would be raised from the tax to help finance a stadium for a new Major League Soccer franchise as well as job training and economic development initiatives.
The sales tax must pass in order for the use tax to pass, but for the stadium to be built, voters must approve dedicating the new use tax revenues to helping to fund the stadium, and Major League Soccer must commit to an expansion team for the St. Louis, a city statement said.
Under a proposed lease agreement with the franchise investors, the city would contribute $60 million toward the nearly $200 million price tag for the multi-use downtown stadium and would not be responsible for any cost overruns. The investor group was one of 12 to apply to MLS Jan. 31 for an expansion team.
MLS has said it would award four franchises in the coming years with applications for the first one to awarded later in 2017 due by the end of the January. Stadium site and financing plans must be included in the application. The St. Louis group unveiled its downtown, 20,000-seat stadium plan on a 24-acre site last month.