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St. Louis County Council gives preliminary approval to $155 million in tax breaks for Boeing

County resident Jean Loemcar addresses members of the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at the Lawrence K. Roos County Government Building. During the meeting, Loemcar spoke in favor of a bill that would freeze property taxes for seniors, but would reduce future funding for schools.
Tristen Rouse
/
St. Louis Public Radio
County resident Jean Loemcar addresses members of the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at the Lawrence K. Roos County Government Building. During the meeting, Loemcar spoke in favor of a bill that would freeze property taxes for seniors, but would reduce future funding for schools.

Boeing has not said exactly what it would build but that the project would create about 500 new jobs.

St. Louis County leaders are one step closer to giving Boeing millions in tax breaks for a proposed $1.8 billion project at Lambert airport.

County Council members voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to move the bill forward. Final approval could come as soon as next week.

The move comes on the heels of the St. Louis Airport Commission’s approval of Boeing’s expansion projectwhich would allow the company to lease about 158 acres of land at Lambert.

Boeing leaders have not detailed what the company plans to build but said the project would create about 500 jobs when completed near existing Boeing facilities.

“Boeing is in a precarious situation because it is right now trying to bid for the next level of airplanes, fighter planes,” said Councilwoman Rita Heard Days, who sponsored the bill. “They need to be able to compete and this legislation will help them do that.”

A portion of the aircraft manufacturer’s facility would be located in Days’ district. She said the county should work to keep Boeing’s businesses, which are the largest employer in the county.

Boeing would get a 50% reduction in real estate and personal property taxes for 10 years which is estimated to save the company $155 million.

Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway, who cast the lone vote against the incentives, said she’s conflicted about giving Boeing tax breaks to keep it from expanding somewhere else.

“It feels wrong to me that we have to bribe companies to stay in our community and if our bribe isn't big enough, they're going to go someplace else,” Dunaway said. “I just don't like the idea of these types of incentives when so many other people and parts of our community are really suffering for the kind of investment that our tax dollars should be contributing to.”

The first phase of the project would utilize the airport’s Brownleigh property, a portion of its northern tract which is the former site of McDonnell Douglas buildings. The manufacturer could also begin a second phase of the project. Boeing would initially pay the airport about $2.6 million a year during the first phase with a potential increase after the seventh year of the lease based on consumer price indexing.

Business leaders have championed the proposal, saying it would build up the region and bring in more jobs.

Dunaway said she would be open to supporting the legislation if Boeing makes it clear that it will invest more in the region and participate in more public-private partnerships.
Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Chad Davis