Is The Zoo-Museum District An Outdated And Unfair Tax?
The Saint Louis Zoo is a great place for families to spend a summer day. Many people like that the zoo does not charge admission, but few visitors know how the zoo is funded. When told that a property tax in Saint Louis City and Saint Louis County pays for the zoo, some visitors were surprised. Residents of Chicago and Tennessee said the free admission is nice. However, two citizens of Saint Louis City think it is unfair that residents of surrounding counties can visit the zoo for free.
While the fairness of this tax is a worthy topic of debate, Haleigh Albers, an intern at the Show-Me Institute, said she is more concerned about the sustainability of this tax. The population of the tax district (Saint Louis City plus Saint Louis County) has been decreasing steadily over the past few decades, meaning that fewer and fewer taxpayers are supporting the zoo.
Not only is the population of the taxing district shrinking but — more importantly — the population also is getting smaller relative to the greater Saint Louis area. Haleigh writes:
At the time the Zoo-Museum District tax was levied on Saint Louis City and Saint Louis County, the residential taxpayers accounted for 62 percent of the population of the greater Saint Louis area. The majority of the typical Zoo-Museum District customers were contributing to its funding. Conversely, in 2010, Saint Louis City and Saint Louis County consisted of only 47 percent of the metro area. Therefore, less than half of the expected patrons were funding the District.