09 Jan Ep. 49 Alderman Scott Ogilvie of Ward 24
In this episode, Realtor Adam Kruse and Realtor Shannon St. Pierre talk to alderman Scott Ogilvie from Ward 24 about the articles he wrote regarding the difficulties dealing with government red tape and the future St. Louis deserves. (apologies for the audio quality in some parts)
Email questions to PODCAST@HermannLondon.com
0:44 Adam introduces Alderman Scott Ogilvie from Ward 24. They will be discussing 2 articles Scott wrote entitled A New Direction In 2019 from Ward24StL.org and The Non-Profit Paradox. 40% of Real Estate in St. Louis is Government Owned or Tax Exempt from NextStL.com
1:31 Scott Ogilvie introduces himself and gives his bio
1:38 Ward 24 includes Dogtown, Clifton Heights, Cheltenham, and Ellendale
2:20 What are some of the highlights from the past 8 years Scott Ogilvie has been in office
3:20 What is an alderman and what is process of becoming one? Why did Scott Ogilvie want to become an alderman?
4:20 What is constituent services? What are zoning variances?
5:04 What is the criteria to become an alderman?
5:30 What is Prop R and is it coming back up for a vote?
6:43 What do the other alderman think about Prop R potentially eliminating their jobs?
8:40 Why is Scott Ogilvie not running for re-election and why did he write a letter about it?
9:26 Why are there a lot of problems in St. Louis city that can’t be fixed?
9:55 What was the reaction from the letter?
11:00 Why are more people interested in merging the St. Louis City and county?
13:10 How has the population changed in St. Louis city, county, and St. Charles in the past 40 years?
14:25 What are the cons to merging the city and the county?
16:10 What are the acute problems in the St. Louis areas?
16:36 Has anyone stepped up since Scott Ogilvie has announced he is leaving?
17:17 What is the learning curve like for a new alderman?
18:40 Were any things harder to accomplish than Scott Ogilvie thought they would be?
20:00 Why is real estate so hot in Ward 24 and Dogtown?
22:10 Do alderman know much about the real estate in their area?
23:42 What are the pros about becoming alderman of ward 24?
24:40 What does Scott Ogilvie think about LRA (Land Reutilization Authority) properties?
26:41 What makes the city want to have more people? The problems of growth are easier to deal with than the problems of abandonment
28:15 How much property in St. Louis is not contributing to the tax rolls? What types of properties don’t have to contribute?
34:14 What happened when Boston assessed all of their property in the non-profit zone?
36:00 Do St. Louis nonprofits pay any property tax?
37:05 How far back does Missouri’s property tax exemption go back?
38:00 Do nonprofits charge sales tax on their own sales like concessions at soccer games?
39:28 Is St. Louis city operating efficiently?
41:20 What is the city’s total budget? What is the school district’s budget?
41:38 School districts are a big reason people decide where to live
43:28 What upcoming elections should we be watching?
45:20 What can the average citizen do to help create change?
47:06 What makes Scott Ogilvie smile about St. Louis?
Adam: live on the rooftop of the Hermann London real estate group in beautiful downtown Maplewood is the st. Louis realtor podcast with your host Adam Kruse welcome (2) everybody to the st. Louis realtor podcast live from the rooftop of the Hermann London real estate group I have my fabulous co-host Shannon st. Pierre here in the on the rooftop with me Shannon say hello to everybody
Shannon: hello (2)
Adam: and today we have a very special guest and it’s Scott Ogilvie the two main sort of focuses of our of our conversation today is one as a letter that he wrote on his website ward24stl.org and then other is an article that he wrote in on nextSTL.com called the non profit paradox 40% of real estate and st. Louis is government owned or tax-exempt so if you want to have some context for our conversations those are two resources for you to check out nextSTL in Ward24STL.org so what we wanted to start off with Scott is asking you just to kind of do a little bit of intro on yourself in a bio if you don’t mind
Scott: sure…well I’ve been on the st. Louis Board of Aldermen for eight years I was elected in 2011 I represent an area that is close to here just across the border from Maplewood 24th Ward is dog town Clifton Heights Ellendale and part of the Cheltenham neighborhood so south of the park along the western border of city limits I’m a big cycling enthusiast in my personal life my wife and I live in Dogtown we have a daughter and too many dogs and I used to love them more than I do today but they’re fine and I think you know if I could summarize sort of the high points of my eight years in office we did some good infrastructure work and some good development work within the 24th ward we’ve done some important citywide legislation I think including campaign finance limits passed that several years ago when there were no limits at the state level and other things like prop R which we passed in 2012 which was Board of Aldermen reduction to shrink the size of the board from 28 to 14 members and then I’ve done a lot of work a little bit legislatively bit more just sort of advocacy work on public transit within the region and drawing attention to how the region sort of stagnated for a long time in expanding Metrolink or working towards a plan to expand Metrolink and last year we passed a tax increase that included a lot of money for a new Metro like mine in the city so those are kind of the things I may be most proud of in the last eight years and looking forward to just sort of talking about what I’ve learned in these eight years in my remaining time in office
Adam: beautiful we wanted to kind of ask a little bit about like sort of bit the basics like what is an alderman how did you choose to be an alderman what’s the process you know
Adam: what becoming one and the grand scheme of like the city government what’s the what’s your role yeah
Scott: sure I mean we’re the we’re the City Council so we’re the legislative body for the city there’s 28 aldermen we each represent a district and there’s a primary election and a general election and so I’ve won an election in 2011 and won again in 2015 the job you know we make the laws which is what legislative bodies do we play a very limited role in the city’s budget we do some policy work and we do a lot of probably the (2) biggest thing you do is what we call constituent services which is just helping residents navigate things they need from City Hall or problems you know everything things from potholes too you know a streetlight is out all that all that kind of stuff a lot of that comes to us and then we do play a role in development especially with things like zoning variances and tax incentives and a lot of times we end up being sort of the liaison between a neighborhood or community and a developer who’s you know working within the ward so that’s kind of there is really no job description other than where the legislative body but those are the kinds of things we tend to do
Shannon: so what’s the criteria to become an older person
Scott: you just got to win the election
Shannon: you have been in the ward
Scott: yeah (2) thank you it’s just some basic criteria you have to be twenty-five years old you have to have lived in the Ward for at least a year and I think in the city for three years you have to have paid your taxes and (2) you got to go convince voters to vote for you and if you do that you can be an altar in well
Shannon: it’s nice so one of the props the part though that you mentioned does one of your key accomplishments is that coming back up for votes or
Scott: possibly so that that was a charter amendment so we changed the city’s Charter which is like the city’s Constitution and when we passed that in 2012 it said it will go into effect after the next census and the next census will have the results of the next census in 2021
Shannon: and proper again is the was the vote to reduce the number of aldermen
Scott: from 28 to 14 correct so there’s been an effort this year to revisit that but that bill never passed so we would have to charter amendments have to go on the ballot there has to be a public referendum on them and to change the Charter you need a vote of 60% and so we got that 60% in 2012 so there’s been an effort to get it back on the ballot to sort of undo it but that that bill didn’t pass so as of right now that’s not going back for another vote now there’s still some time between now and 2021 when it really takes effect so it’s not impossible that it would go back on the ballot and people would vote again and if it did it would need another 60% to undo
Shannon: to undo it
Scott: what voters said
Shannon: so what’s the general consensus among the alder aldermen because you’re asked you’re cutting several positions technically
Scott: yeah well it had it had a majority of votes to get it the first time I think there’s some hesitation at this point you know why I campaigned for that heavily at the time and my yeah the main points I was making are that we would be better served by alderman who represented larger areas who whose demographics racial and economic demographics looked more like the city as a whole and I think we would be better served by people who had to had to present a vision to a bigger group of people we have a lot of wards right now we represent a relatively small number of people compared to almost any other city in the country and we represent fewer people than we’ve ever represented before because the population has shrunk a lot so my sense was we would just be better served with a with a smaller Board of Aldermen and if we (2) have at City Hall a large Board of Aldermen with very limited professional staff around us and I thought we’d be better served with a smaller board of aldermen and more professional staff things like you know financial legal staff you know legislative assistants things like that that make you run a professional organization and I think often times we lack that and (2) the residents suffer for it
Shannon: okay so you have publicly announced that you actually are not running again in a letter on your website for another term coming up next year the letter gained a lot of publicity
Scott: it did
Shannon: it did so for our listeners can you review what you stated in the letter as to your reasons
Scott: yeah well I was kind of commingling to things I mean I wanted to let people know I wasn’t running I certainly had some frustrations but I also wanted to you know while I still have a platform to talk about some of these things talk about how regional fragmentation I think is hurting the city and hurting the region and you know my experience at City Hall being in local government for eight years really hammered that home over and over again that there are just a myriad number of topics where the division between the city and county and (2) the municipal division within the county leads to bad outcomes for residents and I think I think we get bogged down there’s a lot of problems at City Hall but my point I guess was there a lot of problems in st. Louis City that we do not actually have the capacity to fix because we don’t have the tax base in the city we don’t have the resources of the entire region of the city and county to apply to the most acute problems and so we have a lot of problems that have lingered and have not been corrected and I think we’re all suffering for that so that’s kind of my main thesis after eight years in local government
Shannon: uh and so what’s been the reaction of your constituents of this letter and your fellow fellow aldermen
Scott: well you’re never more popular than when you say you’re leaving I (2) think I mean honestly the feedback has been tremendous I mean I’ve had just lots of people tell me they they’ve felt the same way as some of the things I expressed in that column and you know support for reorganizing government in the city is (2) high among City residents and I (2) think there’s more and more awareness in seeing those County as well that we have a very unusual and not very effective government structure and I think more people want to change that then they used to you I mean I’ve been to some events in the county recently and people you know they say oh you’re an alderman in the city I say yeah and they say when are we going to merge the city in the county yeah the people bring it up right away in a way that I did not experience in their in previous years so I think that this idea is getting a lot more (2) purchase out in the public
Shannon: and what do you attribute that to
Scott: I think a tribute it to the fact that I just think more well we should back up so people have known that this is a problem for a hundred years
Shannon: the fragmentation of the city and the county and just for clarification purposes it is very unusual for the city and the county to be separated we are in an independent city
Shannon: we’re our own the city of st. Louis is its own City and County
Shannon: and many cities across the United States word that way at one time but as urban sprawl happened the county in the cities combined eventually and we’re one of the last
Shannon: we are holding out and I’m not sure for what
Scott: central cities either tend to be larger so they’re a bigger part of the (2) region’s population or they’re at least within the largest county within the region which gives them you know more influence which in within you know county policy so yeah so we’re in a very unusual situation being a relatively small central city completely you know that basically shares nothing with singing those County it’s very unusual and it’s not it was not really done this way on purpose it was sort of done by accident in 1876 and as early as the early 1900s people realized that that was a bad idea and started to try to change it and there’s been multiple votes to try to undo that problem
Shannon: so since the beginning of 1900 [???]
Adam: what happened
Scott: they the public has just never supported the idea so those all those votes failed but so it’s not like us sitting here in 2018 or the first people who recognized this problem but it is still a problem 100 years later and I think now we have a hundred years of history to (2) look at the issues that has caused within the region and I you know I think if you live here you can sort of forget how unusual the structure is and you can lose perspective on how poorly this region has done in some ways over the last 50 years like post-world War two you know a statistic that I share a lot that I think shocks a lot of people is if you take the population of st. Louis City st. Louis County and st. Charles in 1970 it was 1.66 million people and today in 2018 it’s 1.67 million people so we grew the (2) three big counties within the region grew less than 1% overall in the last forty eight years while the country grew by forty eight percent and the state grew by something like twenty five percent so you know if people are voting with their feet we’re losing and you know you can’t it’s not just an issue of how regional government is structured but it is an issue of how you know the structure of regional government is leading to this underperformance in for the region and I think we can continue down the same path indefinitely and or we can make a change and try to right the ship so that’s but that’s what I’ve been trying to use my last few months to alert people to
Shannon: and so there (2) seem to be so many pros to combining the city and the county together that I don’t know that I understand why we have it are what are the cons what are what’s the holdup
Adam: yeah what are people the people that are voting against it what are their perspectives
Scott: yeah I think it mostly comes down to sort of an emotional and psychological issue
Scott: so when we you know the lines on the map are basically arbitrary lines but we assign a lot of value to them so when we you know when we say we’re from some part of st. Louis County that can become very important to people and it (2) when we tell people you’re on a different team and we all know there’s this there’s this very active I would say animosity between (2) city and county and between residents of the city and county when you tell people are on separate teams they act like they’re on separate teams and so within the region we (2) look at each other like the people over there a few miles away are on some other team and you know those are like those aren’t my people and the reality is the region shares a common destiny and we just don’t act like it does so (2) I think that’s been the I would say emotional roadblock to getting us to (2) reorganize government that’s the main factor it’s just we feel like you know we feel like we’re giving up something if we can’t say you know we live in Kirkwood and that’s different from st. Louis City anymore the I think the pluses I think there are huge plus is the biggest plus being if you’re all in the same county or maybe if you’re all just in one big city of 1.3 million people you pool resources and you can apply the resources of the region to try to fix the most acute problems within the region which you know I think we’re all relatively well aware of things like a devastating crime rate things like huge educational disparities things like you know the (2) abandonment of large parts of city and county so fixing the fragmentation problem is not going to solve all the problems on day one but I think it it it resets the region in a way that lets us actually focus on solving those problems
Shannon: has anyone stepped up since you have announced that you’re leaving has anyone stepped up and said because one of the things you said in your letters you wanted to let people know right away so that they could start planning and executing a campaign if and to give someone well enough time to
Shannon: fill your shoes [???]
Scott: yeah so filing opens next Monday that November 26 so it’s coming up and certainly a number of people have reached out to me and express an interest in running we’ll see who (2) files next week but definitely I’ve had a handful of people who I think are qualified and who I think could do a good job who’ve reached out we’ll see who files and you know we’ll see what the mixes and if I feel like one of them is head and shoulders above the rest I’ll probably endorse them but I think the good news is that I think some (2) qualified level of level headed people are likely to file
Shannon: so that’s good
Adam: yeah (2) well I mean well they have a lot of learning curve in terms of understanding like who’s who and who do I talk to for this and what power do I have and you know
Scott: anytime you start any job there’s some learning curve if you know if you make an effort to figure it out before too long the (2) the first year is you know probably more difficult because you are figuring things out and you know you don’t have everybody’s phone number on the first day that you need to have but anybody who I think applies themself can configure it out for sure
Adam: you mentioned in your letter that you had a lot of things that you kind of wanted to get done that you were able to get done and so I you know to me the letter said that there was a lot of things that I guess were really hard to do but did you find you started off with sort of your own I had goals and then as time went on like a thousand more things came up that you wanted to accomplish and those are the things that were harder than you thought it would be
Scott: I don’t think I don’t think new things came up that were harder I think the you know the list I had of maybe ten things that were very important to me I think I actually checked most of those boxes I will say and you know strangely enough some of this had to do with having a having a child is that some of the things that and sometimes these were just small things like interactions with residents where I thought something should get fixed you know I made a request I made another request it didn’t get fixed I got more frustrated with those things over time when things I thought should not be there were sort of layups we’re not getting fixed in a timely manner I’m more frustrated with that than I used to be and I’m you know having a kid think you have a little bit less like emotional reserve to deal with some of that stuff sometimes and but I don’t think it’s different I don’t think the actual like performance of how departments are doing their job was very much different than it was eight years ago when I started and I you know I probably have more empathy empathy than I did for them at the beginning because I see that you know with the limited tax base the city has we (2) can struggle sometimes to just get basic stuff done
Adam: I think you can definitely look back and you know pat yourself on the back for the things that you did accomplish and from a real estate perspective it seems like dog town and Clifton Heights in the other areas you mentioned I knew you I knew you two covered our town but those areas seem to be doing great you know I seed lots of new construction and things like that in dog town
Scott: yeah I think the ward is in a pretty good place and you know I think you want you want a healthy amount of real estate investment which I think we’re at but we’re not at a level where like everything is changing too fast you know I think we’re in a good place where there’s enough demand that you know the vacant lot or the vacant building season investor gets fixed up moves new people in and so that’s been you know exciting to see you know especially a couple of projects like the Gratiot school which is a very old think of 1874 is when that building was constructed so one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood was renovated a few years ago by Garcia after Saint Louis school districts sold it [???]
Shannon: it that was the one at Hampton and Manchester
Scott: yes exactly and I lived near there for about a decade so I always looked at that building and thought you know so much more could be done with this building we’re getting a grocery store early next year and a new building a Clayton and grand kind of in the middle of Dogtown by a developer from Indianapolis who has now just yesterday made public a proposal to do a very big Tod project near the de Bolivar Medtronic station so you know that’s exciting and getting that project through which was not necessarily a slam dunk with the neighborhood at first is gratifying and there’s some other you know every you know every vacant lot or every you know home that’s been vacant for a couple years that sees an investor come in and fix it up I mean those all feel like small victories
Adam: from an Alderman’s perspective do you have a lot of kind of influence on the real estate or do you know about like real estate for sale or anything like that before other people do
Scott: not you know sometimes I don’t think aldermen are usually right in the middle of a lot of those deals but I do have an opportunity you know when things need some input from the city side and that might be a zoning variance it might be some type of tax incentive how you manage those things with you know a neighborhood association or community which also has input into them does (2) matter you know how you communicate what a project is or how you work you know go back and forth between you know a neighborhood and a developer to figure out you know hey maybe there’s support here but a few things are gonna have to change about this project there that is a way where you can have an impact to make sure that things are done things can still get done but be done in a responsible way and if you screw that up a lot it can definitely have a negative impact on investment because projects may not happen if you have a lot of you know if you create a lot of animosity with (2) the public so (2) using a gentle touch can (2) help move things along sometimes
Shannon: so as you pass the torch what do you see is some of the positives
Scott: clarify a little bit with positives in what way
Shannon: um you know what the next person will be taking on and their position and where they’ll be starting from
Scott: sure well I think now is a good time to start you know the economy is good unemployment slow there’s you know 20 or the last 12 months there was more permit activity you know in the city of st. Louis than ever before so at least within the 24th Ward I don’t think you’re not taking on an area that has really acute problems there are always new things to work on and I’m sure the neck the year the next person this job will have you know their own set of priorities and passions that they want to work on but I think that they’re probably starting from good place
Shannon: good (2)
Adam: so it we interviewed or we did a podcast on LRA at one point in the past it seems like there’s not a lot of LRA properties and your ward journey with that
Adam: but you do you have any perspective on the kind of the bigger picture for solution for LRA properties
Scott: yeah some perspective so you know I think the first thing you have to remember is LRA gets sort of the worst of the worst properties they’re the last stop so those are properties that nobody bought at a tax sale right so somebody most other had properties the owner has already walked away they have not been paying taxes for three or four years they went to a tax auction and nobody wanted the property even for the back taxes which you know sometimes there are only five or six thousand dollars so these are the properties that have the least market demand so the (2) solution of that is not really like an LRA solution it’s a it’s a demand solution and demand means more people right it means more real estate demand more demand for that property so the real solution to the (2) inventory of LRA properties is you know more people wanting to live in the city and it’s also filling up neighborhoods where there’s demand now so that that the man probably spreads to adjacent neighborhoods and so it means just continuing to push development in areas where there’s demand and (2) hopefully hoping that it eventually spills over you know the it’s also things like delivering a level of service that creates demands and (2) that’s everything from public safety to school district to school availability to create demand in areas that you know demand is limited right now
Adam: I have kind of a weird question I guess you know in business we always want to sell more and make more and have more you know we always want more Realtors to work at our company and stuff like that right but so from a city’s perspective is what’s the drive what makes the city want to have more people
Scott: well the problem is of growth are a lot easier to deal with and the problems of abandonment you know we have we have the (2) the population in st. Louis peaked at about 850,000 people we’re never gonna get back there but we clearly have the infrastructure to support four or five hundred thousand people and we need four or five hundred thousand people to pay for that infrastructure so
Shannon: currently at what 315 thousand
Scott: about 315
Scott: yeah so I mean the reason we want more people is just to have a able community I think you know big picture it in terms you know is the details I mean there’s neighborhoods where we desperately want more people because vacant buildings vacant properties are a huge liability I mean they really are bad for (2) current residents they make life more difficult there there’s a public safety aspect you know abandonment it’s bad for people’s insurance rates you know it’s bad for bad for their property values there’s all there’s all these drags associated with living in a place where there’s a high level of vacancy so new you know more people moving in a population increase would do wonders for many (2) current property owners in the city
Shannon: really one had to have you here today is I read this article last week or not sure what exactly came out
Shannon: and I was floored so this is the article that you wrote for next STL on their website and again the article is the nonprofit paradox 40% of real estate and st. Louis is government owned or taxed exempt and I’m not even sure way to really start with this
Adam: let me start by giving kind of an overview [???]
Shannon: yeah I mean I feel like I just want to sit here and read the entire article because there isn’t a sentence in here though that isn’t vital to the story and important to know but I think all this is really important to know and I think what’s really shocking is none of this is looked at prior
Adam: so we definitely want people to go to next STL and read the article but I guess we’re gonna ask God to do the sort of a cliff note
Adam: version of it
Scott: right so I wanted to take a look that I’ve heard a lot of speculation over the years about how much property is not contributing to the tax rolls and we hadn’t at least not recently there had not been a careful look at but what that amounted to so I worked with our financial analysts at the board and with the assessor’s office to really compile a complete picture of all the properties that were not paying taxes and so that’s a couple different categories its categories like parks which you know there’s value in parks but we do have a big park system and takes money to maintain that it’s a category of government owned properties which includes LRA properties it includes federal properties it includes
Shannon: City homes
Scott: city highly owned properties right the city does own a fair amount of property and it includes nonprofits which nonprofit owned parcels which is a fast-growing component and you add that all up and in a city which is (2) geographically restricted only 62 square miles that now all those categories now combined add up to 40 percent of the city is not on the tax rolls and that’s a pretty big chunk of the city and it means that the other 60% are kind of carrying the tax burden for the whole city the nonprofit arena is I think of particular importance or concern or interest because a lot of that a lot of those nonprofits are hot the ones that own the most property hospitals universities they have they have grown as a percentage of the nation’s economy their 10% and in most cities they’re bigger they’re more than ten percent of the local regional economy they may be as much as 15% of the employment of the number of jobs in the city and
Scott: yes a 15% of the total jobs or more we have we could still refine that number are probably with nonprofits and the city of st. Louis and I’m we think that the percentage of property they’ve owned just over the last ten years when the city has gone from 5% to 10% and a lot of that property is highly valuable property so it’s a particular importance and the paradox is really with the local school districts so
Shannon: so two of the big is Washington University BJC health system and then also st. Louis University SSM health system
Adam: yeah I was curious about that as is Wash U connected to BJC somehow
Scott: yeah so I mean Wash U runs the (2) like med school BJC is the hospital they’re kind of co-located in the Central West
Adam: ok and flu and SSM are the same things
Shannon: king highway I think the whole Kings Highway medical system between Kings Highway and grand
Scott: so same yeah st. Louis University owns a lot of property tenant excuse me I should miss a tenant that’s the old abandoned SSM does not own as much as BJC does but but people say property owners so the paradox comes in when the university’s own a lot of a lot of land they’re not paying property taxes on it the local school district their primary revenue source is is local property taxes so they (2) see as much as 10 percent of their budget is sort of before gone because of his nonprofit owner you know it’s something that I haven’t heard the school district to talk about a lot but if we continue to see the growth of these nonprofits and they occupy more and more real estate within the city you know I think at some point it’s an issue that SLPS is gonna have to start talking about public school I think the solution is sort of which is what we’d go back to we were talking about before is (2) reorganizing the structure of government within the region so you had you’re a bigger pool of people are paying into like the same the same local government
Shannon: so joining the city in the county
Scott: that would do wonders for a lot of these issues yes I will say though that if that never happens the next thing you look at is trying to negotiate with the big nonprofits what are called pilots payments in lieu of taxes which is something some cities have done so that they pay something so they’re paying some percentage of what they would owe if they were you know assessed at a market rate and Boston is kind of the (2) highest profile example of the city who did that Boston geographically is very small you can small in the st. Louis has a bunch of universities and they negotiated higher pilot payments starting during the last recession in 2008 and most of the big net profits in Boston have been participating to some extent so it has it has helped a pilot
Shannon: so how did they get them on board did it birth
Scott: they yes what Boston did is they (2) went and they actually assessed all of the (2)y assess the value of all the property the nonprofit’s own which
Shannon: we have yet to do
Scott: we haven’t done you know if you’re obviously you own regular property it’s assessed every two years but there’s a cost associated with going and actually doing all those assessments so Boston did that they sort of brought in kind of behind the scenes all of these institutions and they said look you know if we were if we were charging you a market rate for this you guys would be paying like 250 million dollars a year so that’s a lot of money that we’re going to be Boston let’s figure out what is a rate that you could pay because there are costs associated with having these (2) institutions they’re right we provide police we provide fire we provide you know all the utility infrastructure roads all that stuff we’re glad they’re here but there is a cost associated with having them here and that cost is paid you know just by the city of st. Louis not by the region or just by the city of Boston not by [???]
Shannon: the party of property taxes go to
Scott: exactly and so what so Boston said okay what can you pay and let’s slowly over time ramp those payments up until they reach a certain level and they’ve been somewhat successful in doing that if you look at you know recent stories and in Boston about this program there are many people who will still say that those institutions are not paying enough but they’re certainly paying something now which I think goes a long way towards just acknowledging they have sort of a (2) shared responsibility for the community that they exist in
Shannon: so I can’t remember if I read in the article our (2) institutions paying anything
Scott: they’re paying very little so they in terms of property tax they are only paying on properties that are vacant because if their vacant yeah those properties are not really contributing to the mission of their organization
Shannon: so yeah I thought that was really interesting so they’re paying some property tax on just the vacant or prop property that’s not used in connection with their
Shannon: mission as you say
Scott: and then employees of those institutions pay the cities of earnings tax but they are exempt from lots of other taxes so we have a very favorable set of laws for non tax laws for nonprofits in (2) Missouri
Shannon: and were those designed at a time that we were just trying to attract business or nonprofits or universities it was a setup you know a hundred years ago
Scott: yeah the property tax exemption actually goes back to when like Missouri’s original Constitution so and then you know that’s (2) common so I’m not necessarily saying it’s a huge problem but these institutions were also much smaller components of the total economy passed and now that they’ve grown we have to acknowledge that there are costs associated with (2) you know hosting them within your city that they may not be covering anymore and so that’s kind of what I’m what I’m getting at and in particular you’re the one tax we could levy which actually discussed and there is actually a bill filed a couple years ago that would have done this is the payroll tax which everybody but the nonprofit’s pays and I you know I think that’s it’s not out of the question that we might collect that at some point it doesn’t do anything for the school district which is maybe the (2) bigger concern the city has a much more diversified revenue stream in terms of tax revenue than the school district does the school district primarily just has local property taxes and then revenue from the state that the state pays into districts to kind of balance out some of the per pupil spending so they’re getting dinged a lot more than the (2) city itself is and I’ll be interested to see if they ever kind of pick that up and say they need they need some more help from the institutions
Shannon: okay so the state law exempts the paying of sales and use tax and there’s very little chance of changing that because that would have to be done at the state level is that correct
Scott: yeah and what the particularly unusual thing there is that the nonprofits in Missouri they don’t even charge sales tax like on their own sales so if you go to like a soccer game at SLU and you buy concessions you’re not paying sales tax on that
Shannon: or like their cafeteria
Scott: exactly and that’s that’s (2) very unusual nationally
Shannon: and that’s a state law that’s not just Louis the region so the only tax that would be up to change is the payroll tax but that doesn’t help the st. Louis Public Schools
Scott: it doesn’t that would help the city’s budget but not the school districts budget
Adam: does the city need a lot more tax money or are they running pretty efficiently
Scott: that’s a big discussion I would say we have a very stagnant tax base and historically we’ve had very low reserves you know I think you can find people who say that you could you could be a lot more efficient but if you look at you know cities just have to do a lot of things that cost a lot of money like police and fire protection and there are many categories of employee at City Hall who really are not paid particularly well and of course there’s you know there’s fewer we probably need fewer people because of Technology and because the population is smaller but there are fewer employees of the city of st. Louis and really there’s ever been before you know I think cities always have to look at controlling costs but I would say we’re (2) at the point now where it is difficult to recruit people for lots of positions because we just don’t pay enough especially with the you know it kind of be doing good we definitely lose good people all the time just to the private sector so you can’t really go and you know if we’re already not competitive in terms of wages you don’t build a better city by cutting wages for your public employees further and not being able to hire people so (2) we operating efficiently maybe not as efficiently as we could be but most costs are personnel costs and we can’t really shrink that any farther
Shannon: so I think when the staggering numbers are just that you wrote in this is they combined the city and the st. Louis Public Schools miss roughly 59 million dollars annually across the four tax exemptions
Shannon: and that’s the property sales use tax and payroll and that and that that’s see that’s a large number what is the city’s total budget
Scott: the if you exclude the airport which probably shouldn’t count because the airport’s really a separate and thing the city’s budget is about 750 million a year
Scott: and the school districts budget is about three hundred twenty or thirty million dollars a year I think so certainly the higher income school districts port you know the more affluent school districts are spending generally spending more per pupil in the lower income districts
Shannon: how long did it take you to kind of put this article together
Scott: it took a little while just to figure out the data from the Assessor but they were very helpful in providing that
Shannon: yeah prior to this article there had been no mapping done of actual plots that were owned by nonprofit and/or government
Scott: yeah I found him I did find later on I found a map from maybe 2009
Scott: so they’re made somebody may have looked at this in the past but I would sort of propose this is maybe a more important thing for us to track on an annual basis and to consider like some other cities have done actually doing assessments of all the (2) especially the nonprofit parcels that are not paying so we have so we can track the percentage of revenue that was that we’re losing because you mean I mean Boston to do this and you know I think they were surprised to find out that like 50 percent of their revenue they weren’t collecting because of these nonprofits and you do I think reach a breaking point I don’t think we’re quite at the breaking point in st. Louis but (2) you want to be able to track this so we know the extent of the problem
Shannon: well I highly encourage everyone to go read this article I think it’s very important to just be aware of what’s happening around you just a couple last questions as you (2) you’re not running for your seat again for all the person what other races are coming up that we should be watching
Scott: Ohh in the spring where it was an election for president the Board of Aldermen that’s that’s the big one in the spring there’s three candidates right now Lewis Reed he’s current president Megan Megan Greene who’s an alderman and Jamilah Nasheed who’s a state senator so I think that’ll be kind of the marquee race in the spring Nishida and Reed both have a lot of money you know I’ve worked with Reed I’ve worked with Megan green and I know is she somewhat through work I think they all they all have their own thing and I think they present three distinct choices to voters for sure
Shannon: is it one it kind of stands out to you or in (2) terms of what and who would to be the betterment of the city
Shannon: so okay and you know the answer by the way
Scott: yeah read you know read at City Hall he’s a very positive figure and he does a good job running meetings of the Board of Aldermen I think the critique of him would be he hasn’t particularly defined a vision for the things he wants to do over the (2) years he’s been in that job nasheed is I think a fighter and a pretty good deal maker in politics and so I think she may be out for some sort of bigger strategic things and Green has a very loyal following among some people that I think is not really gonna have the presence to run an effective citywide campaign
Adam: or any of them it’s in support of the merger
Scott: I think Nasheed is the most favorable to that yep
Shannon: and what can citizens do to help or create change as you know I know there’s a lot of challenges with the city of st. Louis but what can the average citizen do
Scott: the average citizen um I mean if you’re in st. Louis I love you right I mean we need people I’m glad you’re there I think from you know the (2) demographic which we struggle with the most is I think younger families who (2) make decisions to leave I would encourage folks in the sea to start your kids in the district or in a school that you like and see how it goes I don’t think there’s any reason to sort of jump ship before that you know it may not be for everybody but I think the stigma that unfortunately has been associated with SLPS really shouldn’t be there it’s kind of overblown and I know lots of I know lots of families who are perfectly happy with the schools and so I’d say
Shannon: I’m one of them
Scott: yeah I’d say to everybody give it give it a shot don’t just assume that it’s not gonna work out I would say to you know folks in the rest of the region look at the big picture of where this region is going and how we can all look at ourselves as being on the same team and have sort of a shared destiny for this region you know I think the inter-regional fighting is just not going to serve this region well and you know a global economy and (2) we can do better so if we all if we all feel like we’re rowing in the same direction or at least in the same boat I think that would do wonders for the health of the region a generation from now
Shannon: that’s amazing I love that answer so what makes you still smile when you about st. Louis what really puts a smile on your face
Scott: well I have great friends here I have all kinds of fun here there’s you know I have a two-year-old and we never lack for something fun and inexpensive to do together and so and you know sing Lewis is definitely a place where you can make an impact without you know being a billionaire so I think all of those things are hopeful you know I like living here I just I just want us to to be a place that’s capable of achieving our full potential
Shannon: that’s awesome although I have I know I
Adam: well thank you so much Scott I mean not just for being a guest on our podcast but also for you know obviously spending so much time on your efforts to help the city and your ward and I can’t imagine it’s like somebody having to dive into this and take on all the things we’ve taken on and I’m sure you could do a whole nother podcast about you know the things that you’ve dealt with and the situations that you’ve been in and it’d be really interesting but
Shannon: City County merge
Adam: yeah we came up with like three or four more podcasts that so but I just wanted to say thank you because I think that you know you’ve made a lot of impact and I’m sure you had to put a lot of effort into
Scott: it it’s been fun I appreciate the invite today guys
Adam: yeah absolutely
Shannon: thank you very much
Adam: if anybody else has any questions send them to podcasts at Herman London calm and we look forward to hearing from you so thanks for listening and take care