Bill would change statute on use of safety-tax funds

Lemay chair would welcome passage of Brown’s proposal.

By MIKE ANTHONY

Legislation that would establish a panel to determine how public-safety-tax revenues generated by a gaming boat are spent when the home-dock entity does not provide all such services has been introduced in the Missouri House.

Rep. Cloria Brown, R-Lemay, introduced the legislation that seeks to amend existing state law regarding the distribution of public-safety-tax revenues generated by gaming boats.

The Lemay Fire Protection District has been embroiled in a legal dispute with St. Louis County over the proceeds of public-safety-tax revenue generated by the River City Casino, which opened in March 2010 in Lemay. Pinnacle Entertainment opened the new 90,000-square-foot casino on March 4, 2010.

On March 12, 2010, the district filed suit against the county, seeking a share of the public-safety tax being paid by the casino as outlined in Missouri statute 313.822.

The suit alleged St. Louis County “has refused to share the public-safety tax,” which is generating roughly $3.5 million annually, with the fire district.

But St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Barbara W. Wallace on June 15 granted the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In a memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss the suit, Associate County Counselor Cynthia Hoemann wrote that Missouri statute 313.822 “does not say a word about fire districts.”

Lemay officials since have appealed the dismissal of the lawsuit.

After learning about the fire district’s situation and speaking with Missouri Gaming Commission officials, Brown told the Call she decided to sponsor her legislation, House Bill 745, which would divide revenue generated by the public safety tax based on the following services: law enforcement, fire safety, emergency medical services and infrastructure.

“The change that I’m proposing is that whenever the entity — whether it’s the county or the city — cannot furnish all four of the services that are required for public safety, there would be a panel set up with a representative from each of the four and they will decide how the money is to be spent. If they cannot decide, then the circuit court does it,” she said.

Brown’s legislation also proposes the addition of a reporting requirement on how the public safety funds are spent. The current statute includes no such provision.

“… There was nothing that said they had to report how they spent the money,” she said. “So I added that, that they now have to report on an annual basis to the commission how they’re spending the money — the thought being, now you can actually monitor it and then say: Well, gee, maybe they need more or maybe they need less.”

Lemay Fire Protection District Board of Directors Chairman David Meyer told the Call he would welcome passage of Brown’s legislation, noting the district filed suit after attempting for roughly two years to reach an agreement with the county to share the proceeds of the safety tax. He said district residents should not have to bear the entire cost of providing additional service to the new casino.

“… St. Louis County does not have emergency medical personnel nor do they have a fire department,” Meyer said.

County officials have said Lemay will receive additional revenue through increased property taxes from the new casino. But Meyer said because the casino has appealed its assessed valuation, “we have not received all of our taxes, whether it be personal-property taxes nor have we received real-estate taxes from the casino … We have only received a portion of that real-estate and personal-property tax …”