County Council’s newest member makes quite an impression

Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony

By MIKE ANTHONY

Though he’s been in office slightly more than a month, we believe Sixth District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county, is making quite an impression.

During a recent interview with the Call’s Burke Wasson, Mr. Stenger said, “My votes will be consistent with what I believe is in our citizens’ best interest. And it will be very much with heavy weight toward being a taxpayer watchdog. That’s what they voted me in for, I believe, and that’s what they’re going to get.”

To that end, Mr. Stenger supports County Executive Charlie Dooley’s proposal to reduce the county’s debt-service tax rate, but doesn’t believe it goes far enough.

The county executive is proposing to reduce the county’s debt-service property-tax rate to 2.8 cents per $100 of assessed valuation from 6.3 cents per $100. This would reduce the county’s property-tax collection by $8.8 million in 2009 and result in owners of $200,000 homes saving $13.30 on their 2009 property taxes.

While Mr. Dooley’s proposal is “a step in the right direction,” Mr. Stenger said he would like to see “… real tax reform.”

To that end, he believes assessments should include such factors as foreclosure sales and the time that a property sits on the market.

Mr. Stenger, who was elected in November and took office Jan. 1, is not the only council member who supports lower assessments.

Both 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, said last week that county officials should consider altering the assessment formula to achieve lower property taxes.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see some bipartisan agreement among County Council members.

The county executive is calling for all St. Louis County taxing entities to reduce their tax rates, but believes that lower assessments would result in taxing bodies rolling up their rates under the Hancock Amendment to recapture that reduced tax revenue.

But Mr. Stenger believes, “If we could lower the assessed value, then on an across-the-board basis across all the jurisdictions that County Executive Dooley was talking about, suddenly the onus is on them. The impetus is on them. They have to answer to their constituents.”

We agree with Mr. Stenger. Given the current economic realities, everyone — including government — is going to have to do more with less.