St. Louis on hook for $243m in Rams stadium costs, comptroller calls bill “fiscally irresponsible”

St. Louis comptroller Darlene Green, who’d previously expressed her opposition to the proposed Rams stadium plan as too expensive for city taxpayers, expressed her opposition more officially on Friday, saying she’ll vote against the current bill as “fiscally irreponsible”:

“If the bill is passed in its current state and presented to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, my vote will be ‘no,’” Green said in a news release issued late Friday afternoon.

I’ve gotten a look at the city’s financial projections for the stadium, and they’re super-convoluted — not only is stadium sales tax revenue kicked back to the team to compensate for using naming-rights money to pay off city stadium bonds, which is Goldbergian enough, but the amount of tax revenue kickback bounces around between 25% and 100% over the next 40 years. From the looks of things, though, the city of St. Louis would be looking at (all numbers in present value, at a 5% discount rate) $66 million worth of sales-tax kickbacks, plus $77 million in future maintenance and operation costs, on top of the $100 million in hotel taxes that would be extended and used for the new stadium after they’re done paying off the old one. That’s $243 million from the city alone, and given that even the city’s best-case scenario (assuming all Rams sales taxes are new revenue, and they grow at 5% a year, well above the national average) is that city sales tax revenues will amount to $150 million present value, yeah, that does seem pretty fiscally irresponsible.

Green’s proposed solution is for the state — which is already set to be on the hook for about $200 million in hotel tax money, plus at least $50 million in tax credits, plus probably some maintenance costs as well, though I don’t have a spreadsheet spelling out those — to pick up more of the costs. Whether she’ll get her way will depend on the other two members of the three-person board of estimate, St. Louis mayor Francis Slay and board of aldermen president Lewis Reed — which, given that Slay is the one who negotiated this plan, probably means this is going to come down to how Reed votes. Reed has been relatively quiet recently on the stadium plan, but back in the spring he said St. Louis should do everything it takes to keep the Rams, so there’s that.

Of course, the Rams bill won’t even get to the board of estimate unless it first gets through the board of aldermen, which has been busily holding hearings but isn’t ready for a vote yet. The likely scenario on the ways and means committee, which must approve the bill to send it to the full board, is a 4-4 tie — alderman Stephen Conway recently griped, in CBS Sports Radio 920’s copy-editor-free transcription, that “there are people against it because it’s sheik to be against it and the wealthy NFL owners” — for which the tiebreaking vote would be cast by … oh, look, it’s Reed again! I think we can guess who the governor and the mayor and the Rams are likely wining and dining about now, huh?


8 comments on “St. Louis on hook for $243m in Rams stadium costs, comptroller calls bill “fiscally irresponsible”

  1. “Fiscally irresponsible,” duh. That’s the level a proposal has to reach in order to be considered valid by the NFL.

    One more indicator that this is a Done Deal: it’s been certified.

  2. It’s actually a misconception that stadium bonds will be backed with hotel/motel tax money. Hotel/motel tax revenue in Saint Louis City is first and foremost dedicated to the convention center, but with debt payments at more than $17 million a year, there simply is not enough revenue. The misconception probably arises out of the fact that with the current stadium (the Edward Jones Dome), Saint Louis County (as opposed to the city) actually did dedicate an increased hotel tax to the stadium, whereas in the city the bonds have always been backed with general revenue. That and city officials are constantly playing a shell game with hotel tax revenue, which at one moment backs the convention center, at another moment backs the convention hotel, and at another moment backs the stadium, even with revenue insufficient for all the tasks.

  3. The Chiefs’ stadium was built in 1972, so not the same, no. They did get a pile of county money for renovations in 2010, though.

  4. Sad to see no new money for schools infrastructure. Los Angeles is not paying any taxes for the new LA stadium. Just tax credits to Mr Kronke. St Louis is mortgaging their future for an open air stadium used 10 times a year. Wakeup

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