Tax Rollback Right Thing to Do
Protesters, including several elected officials, gathered outside the county council last night to demand a rollback of St. Louis County’s property taxes this year. This is an assessment year in Missouri, as I am sure you are all aware, and the average assessment went up 22 percent in St. Louis County. Now, this does not mean that the county budget will go up 22 percent, as property taxes are just a portion of that budget, but it does mean that the county’s take from property taxes will increase significantly this year because of the assessment alone. And assessment, and you also probably know, is supposed to be revenue-neutral.
If you are wondering why St. Louis County is not legally required, like many other governmental entities, to roll back its rates, it is because the county’s tax rates are so far below the authorized maximum that the Hancock provisions do not apply. Now, that, of course, is a good thing, and many county leaders, past and present including Charlie Dooley deserve a great deal of credit for maintaining that low tax rate. However, as Senator Mike Gibbons has repeatedly said for several years now, just because you are not required to roll back rates doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. (How is that for a triple negative?)
Even a slight rollback of the county property tax rates would send an important message to county property owners that St. Louis County is not going to just take the extra money and keep all of it. Some of it must be sent back to property owners in the form of a tax cut. The county council did just that in 2005, led by Kurt Odenwald, and Charlie Dooley signed that legislation. The public would be well served if the council did so again, and Mr. Dooley signed it again.