County voters next week will decide whether the person in charge of their property assessments should be elected.
Voters on Aug. 3 will consider Proposition 2, a county charter amendment that would make the county assessor an elective office.
Prop 2 asks, “Shall the Charter of St. Louis County be amended by providing for the election of the St. Louis County assessor, as set forth in Exhibit A of Ordinance No. 24,382 on file with the St. Louis County administrative director and the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners?”
A simple majority is required for approval.
Next Tuesday’s vote comes ahead of a statewide ballot measure in the Nov. 2 general election that asks essentially the same question. The Missouri General Assembly adopted a joint resolution more than a year ago that calls for a statewide election on a constitutional amendment to require that all charter counties, except Jackson County, have elected assessors.
That resolution was sponsored by state Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale.
Most counties in the state already elect their assessor. St. Louis County and Jackson County — the two largest counties — appoint their assessors. Here, the assessor works under the director of revenue, who is appointed by the county executive.
In May, County Executive Charlie Dooley asked the County Council to place the elected assessor question on the Aug. 3 ballot. He contends the entire state shouldn’t vote on an issue that affects only St. Louis County and wants voters here to have their say first.
It is unclear what will happen if the county rejects Prop. 2 next week and state voters approve the constitutional amendment Nov. 2. Dooley, however, has vowed that St. Louis County’s decision on Tuesday will be the one that sticks.
If county voters approve Prop. 2 next week, they would elect an assessor next April. The winner would serve through Dec. 31, 2014. The assessor would be elected to four-year terms beginning with the November 2014 general election.
The county executive would fill a vacancy in the office subject to council approval.
Assessor candidates must be qualified voters who have lived in the county for at least two years before the election.
Proponents of electing the county assessor believe doing so will lead to fairer property assessments because the assessor will be accountable to voters — not county officials, who may advocate higher assessments to generate more tax revenue.
Opponents believe an assessor’s job performance is unrelated to whether the office is elective. They have contended an elected assessor may not have the professional certifications to do the job, and could be influenced by partisan politics.
Others, such as 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, and Republican County Executive hopeful Bill Corrigan, favor an elected assessor but believe Dooley’s call for a county vote on the issue was purely a political move.
Quinn cast the sole “no” vote this spring on putting the assessor question to county voters for that reason.
The elected assessor issue has been a campaign talking point for Corrigan since he announced his candidacy for Dooley’s job last summer.
Corrigan contends Dooley’s push for a county vote on the matter is a “transparent attempt to get re-elected” as the county executive has opposed the idea of an elected assessor for years.
In 2005, when then-6th District Councilman John Campisi proposed placing a similar measure on the ballot, Dooley told the Call, “I don’t think much of it. I think we have a fine charter. I think most counties are trying to be more like St. Louis County and get rid of all these elected officials.”
During a press conference in May announcing his push to get the elected assessor question on the ballot, Dooley defended the county’s current assessment system but indicated he’d taken a neutral stance on which type of office would best serve residents.
“Our process is a very professional process,” he said. “I don’t know what’s best. We have a great system right now. Would an elected assessor be a better person?
“No it won’t. Would it make this process better? No it won’t. We have the best, transparent process in the state.”