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Voters Asked to Protect the Parks

Voters in St. Louis and Kansas City are being asked if they want to keep funding maintenance of city parks. (
Voters in St. Louis and Kansas City are being asked if they want to keep funding maintenance of city parks. (
March 29, 2016

ST. LOUIS - Voters in St. Louis and Kansas City are being asked to keep a one percent city earnings tax in place to fund programs and services.

The way it works is those who live or work in the cities pay a one percent tax and the money goes into the city's general fund.

It has to be approved by voters every five years. In St. Louis it accounts for almost one third of the general fund. In Kansas City it's 40 percent.

City leaders are warning of dire consequences if the tax isn't retained, and they say police and fire departments would have to be cut back, and there would be a lot less money for parks or city-sponsored recycling and energy-efficiency programs.

Rajiv Ravulapati, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club, says green space is key to the health of a city and its residents.

"You want to see a healthy city center, you want to see healthy city parks," says Ravulapati. "If this tax is voted down it will be less money going toward maintenance of these parks. Vacant alleys and lots will not be mowed down, it will just be unkept so it will be a blight on city residents."

Billionaire financial executive Rex Sinquefield has repeatedly funded campaigns in Missouri to end the earnings tax, saying working families bear the burden of paying it.

Voters have overwhelming rejected his attempts to end the tax. Voters in St Louis and Kansas City go to the polls to decide on "Proposition E" on April 5.

Ravulapati says Missourians are pretty supportive of parks and the environment and studies back up the fact that they lead to a better quality of life.

"There's a lot more green space than people would imagine, I mean I think most people in the country don't even realize that Forest Park is the largest municipal park in the country," he says. "Most people think it's Central Park. "

The Sierra Club says parks and green space combat the negative effects of urban sprawl. St. Louis received an unfortunate ranking of 163 out of 221 metro areas in the 2014 report "Measuring Sprawl and Its Impact" by Smart Growth America.

The report says sprawl increases traffic, pollutes the air and water, and destroys parks, farms and open space.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO