Empty ice rink
Graham Renz

The unconstrained growth and abuse of special taxing districts in Missouri marches (or better, skates) on.

This evening, the Chesterfield City Council will hear details on a proposed ice complex in the valley retail area. Show-Me Institute researchers have followed and testified on the proposal for several months now, and we look forward to learning more tonight. What interests us about the proposal, and what might concern taxpayers in Chesterfield, is that it calls for $7 million in public handouts.

The subsidy, which would cover nearly a third of the project’s costs, would require authorization from voters within a special taxing district, known as a transportation development district (TDD). That district, the Chesterfield Valley TDD, was authorized in 2005 to collect a 3/8 cent sales tax to fund a variety of transportation projects, not all of which have been completed. But TDD voters might be asked to extend and redirect the 3/8 cent sales tax to subsidize infrastructure and parking improvements for the ice complex.

There are far too many questions about the proposal to ask in a single blog post, but below are a few that anyone who lives or shops in the Chesterfield valley area might want to think about.

  • A recent market analysis concluded that “current demand for ice time has not exceeded the supply which has resulted in creating a ‘buyer’s market.’” Given this, and the fact the existing ice facility in Chesterfield, the Hardee’s Ice Arena, is going out of business, should policymakers invest taxpayer dollars in a new ice complex?
  • The Chesterfield Valley TDD collects sales tax on the entire retail area south of I-64. Why should shoppers in the valley help subsidize a privately-owned facility they may never use? That is, why should shoppers buying groceries at Walmart or craft materials at Michael’s have to pick up the tab? Shouldn’t those who use the facility be the ones who pay for it?
  • Is subsidizing a private ice complex appropriate business for a TDD? TDDs are meant to finance transportation improvements that benefit the entire public. How does paying for infrastructure for a private facility benefit the public?
  • If Chesterfield is, as some argue, a “Hockey Town,” why must the public pick up the tab for an ice facility? If there is so much demand for ice time in Chesterfield, why does the public have to subsidize a new ice facility?

We encourage taxpayers across the state, and those in the Saint Louis region especially, to think about these questions. Even if you don’t live or shop in the Chesterfield valley, you may very well patronize businesses located in special taxing districts like the Chesterfield Valley TDD. And that means you could be subsidizing an ice facility—or who knows what else—of your own sooner or later.

About the Author

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Graham Renz
Graham Renz is a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute.