St. Louis, MO (KTRS) A Missouri state audit shows a lack of planning and oversight in more than 130 taxing districts in St. Louis.
During a Thursday news conference in downtown St. Louis, Auditor Nicole Galloway released her findings in the first of three audits related to economic incentives.
“The rampant use of local taxing districts in St. Louis has resulted in the highest sales tax rates in the state. It’s outrageous that, for too long, these districts have operated unchecked. Taxpayers deserve to know their money is being used efficiently, effectively and for the benefit of the entire community,” Galloway said. “It’s up to the city to put processes in place to protect taxpayers and ensure projects have meaningful oversight.”
The report examined the city’s processes when establishing Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) and Special Business Districts (SBDs) and approving Transportation Development District (TDDs) projects. The majority of CIDs and TDDs are funded through increased sales taxes on purchases within the district while SBDs are funded by increased property taxes and business license taxes. There are 138 of these districts located in the city.
The report identified 25 layered incentive districts, which include at least one local taxing district as well as Tax Increment Financing, where the developer receives a percentage of the sales taxes collected, or tax abatement, where the developer does not have to pay property tax increases that result from the project. The sales tax rates in these districts are the highest in the state, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the majority of project costs.
The audit was requested by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen after a group of concerned citizens initiated a petition drive. Galloway said the two other audits are underway, but did not give a timetable for when those findings will be released.