Auditor treats fire district, school district differently

\Call the Tune\ by Mike Anthony

\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

It’s certainly unusual to have two local governmental entities whose tax rates have not been certified by the State Auditor’s Office.

But that’s the case this year with both the Mehlville Fire Protection District and the Mehlville School District. Residents need not worry, though, as the county collector of revenue has agreed to collect the tax rates approved by the boards of both districts.

Though both districts have a similar problem, we couldn’t help but notice that the State Auditor’s Office treated them differently. While the auditor’s office seemingly bent over backwards to accommodate school district officials with their situation, it couldn’t move fast enough to refer the fire district’s issue to the Attorney General’s Office for possible injunctive relief.

That certainly was evident to MFPD Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer, who told the Call, “The differences in the treatment of the two largest taxing entities in south county that share the same name is absolutely blatant. I think it was a total charade, really lending credence to the fact the state auditor clearly had a political ax to grind.”

“The Mehlville School District was treated with white gloves. They treated the fire district with boxing gloves. But it didn’t matter because we’re still standing and we’re going to collect the taxes we levied.”

Mr. Hilmer also reported the Attorney General’s Office will not pursue any legal action to prohibit the fire district from collecting the tax rate approved by the Board of Directors.

While Superintendent Terry Noble believes “a legislative fix” will solve the school district’s problem, the fire district’s tax-rate situation centered around the state auditor’s interpretation of Senate Bill 711 and how to ap-ply a historic tax-rate-ceiling decrease — Prop 1 and Prop 2 — approved by MFPD voters last April.

In interpreting Senate Bill 711, the auditor’s office contended the 40-cent-tax-rate-ceiling reduction ap-proved by voters should be applied to the tax rate approved by the fire board in 2008, reducing the district’s tax-rate-ceiling to 16.3 cents.

Mr. Hilmer disputed that interpretation, contending the 40-cent-tax-rate-ceiling reduction should be applied to the 2008 tax-rate-ceiling of $1.052, reducing the tax-rate ceiling to 65.2 cents. After carefully studying Senate Bill 711, it’s obvious its provisions support Mr. Hilmer’s contention that “… the State Auditor’s Office is either politically motivated or incompetent or probably both …”