Will TDD Funding Skate through Chesterfield?
At 7:00 pm tonight Chesterfield City Hall will be hosting a Council meeting to discuss, among other things, the extension of a 3/8-cent sales tax to help fund a new ice rink. The current transportation development district (TDD) was implemented 10 years ago, and tonight as a sign of public transparency the council is being asked to give a recommendation to the TDD board for or against the use of the TDD to fund something completely new—the ice rink. If I were a member of the Council, there are a few questions that I would like to have answered before making any decision:
1. Is it the city’s place to facilitate funding for a recreational and sports activity center like this? The trend in Missouri of developers asking for financial assistance for private projects merely shows that they are common—not that they are needed. Is the funding of an ice rink the best and highest use of taxpayers’ money? We understand the proponents are presenting the ice rink as a not-for-profit venture. Nonetheless, should Chesterfield ask the TDD board to extend a sales tax (effectively a tax increase) in order to fund an activity that is an easily excludable good—in other words, an activity that can be funded by user fees? Is this proposal highly regressive—does it shift the cost of a special activity away from taxpayers who are better situated to bear the cost, and on to lower-income taxpayers?
2. Why are taxpayers being asked to shoulder over 38% of the development costs for a new ice rink when the ice rink just down the road is being shuttered because it could not make a profit? With the Hardee’s Ice Plex set to shut down next spring and be taken over by Topgolf, what evidence do we have that a new rink down the street would fare any better than its predecessor over the long run? What is the return for taxpayers?
3. How does the voting process work for this TDD? Is it true that, if the TDD board votes in favor of the proposal, only residents in a few select subdivisions will be allowed to vote on extending the sales tax? Is it equitable for just a few Chesterfield residents to make such a determination when the sales tax impacts everyone who makes retail purchases in Chesterfield Valley?
4. Can we make an educated decision on this proposal with the information currently available? The proposal is asking for $10 million in public funds to be put toward the development of a $26-million facility. These numbers seem excessive for a program (TDDs) designed for the renovation of transportation-related infrastructure (unless there will be a street hockey program). Of course, the TDD may be much broader than that—which raises other questions. Hopefully, more details regarding the specific use of public funds and the precise benefits to the public at large will be disclosed. Otherwise, one is left to wonder about the decision-making process and its transparency. If I were on the council, I would keep in mind that the money being spent in the first instance belongs to the taxpayers.