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Appeals court upholds city’s payroll tax and cooperative agreements reimbursing companies’ redevelop

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

In Neuner, et al. v. City of St. Louis, ED 105125 (Mo. App. E.D. Sept. 19, 2017), the Missouri Court of Appeals recently rejected a taxpayer challenge to the City of St. Louis’s payroll tax. The tax requires employers in the City to pay one half of one percent of the compensation earned by their employees. The court rejected the argument that the tax was unauthorized, recognizing that the City’s charter authorized the tax and Article VI, Section 19(a) of the Missouri Constitution grants charter cities all of the powers that the General Assembly “could” grant to a city. The court also rejected a challenge to Cooperative Agreements the City made with certain businesses who agreed to improve and redevelop substandard buildings and areas in the City, in exchange for reimbursement of those projects costs in an amount up to 50% of the increased payroll tax from the project areas. Those Cooperative Agreements helped ensure that those businesses would stay in the City and help revitalize it, and not move to a different location. The court held that such agreements served a public purpose, specifically citing the Board of Aldermen’s findings that stated redevelopment of the “substandard” areas would improve employment and stimulate the economy. A public purpose is not “deprived of its public character,” simply because it also benefits private individuals.

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