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St. Louis, Mo., Fiber Network Tax to Appear on Ballot

A potential tax revamp in St. Louis, Mo., aimed at attracting more private companies to start offering high-speed Internet service in the city may be headed to the Nov. 3 city election ballot.

by Mark Schlinkmann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch / June 24, 2020
St. Louis Shutterstock/Carlos E. Santa Maria

(TNS) — A tax revamp in St. Louis, Mo., aimed at attracting more companies to offer high-speed internet service in the city may be headed to the Nov. 3 city election ballot.

Supporters said the measure, given first-round approval Tuesday by the Board of Aldermen, would require fiber network providers to pay the same 7.5% gross receipts tax levied on telephone service.

Alderman Jack Coatar, the lead sponsor, said companies that lay fiber networks now must pay a right-of-way fee of $2.20 per linear feet, which he said is one of the highest in the country.

“What we want to do is encourage more competition in the city,” said Coatar, D-7th Ward.

Robert Gaskill-Clemons, the city’s chief technology officer, told an aldermanic committee last week that the current fee structure “is a barrier to entry” by new companies.

The change to a gross receipts tax, he said, allows them to delay paying a tax until after they start getting customers. The change, he said, also could convince companies already operating in the city to build out into additional neighborhoods.

Now, Coatar said, high-speed internet service is mainly available downtown and in areas near downtown.

Aldermen voted last year to put the issue on the April 2019 ballot but the city didn’t get the needed information to election officials in time to qualify.

The board on Tuesday also gave tentative approval to a bill setting up a community improvement district at the site of the planned pro soccer stadium west of Union Station.

The measure would allow an additional one-cent sales tax to be levied on items sold at the stadium and raise about $300,000 a year. Two other extra 1-cent taxes also are planned for the stadium through other districts.

On Wednesday, an aldermanic committee will consider a separate bill to allow eminent domain to be used if necessary to obtain a parking lot near 20th and Pine streets in the soccer complex footprint.

Bill Kuehling, an attorney for the stadium and team ownership group, said it has been unable to reach agreement with the owners of the lot.

©2020 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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