Residents in the Mehlville Fire Protection District will vote on a 20-cent tax rate increase in April after the Board of Directors unanimously approved placing the increase on the ballot.
The Board of Directors voted 3-0 Jan. 19 to place a 20-cent tax rate increase on the April 5 ballot to combat the district’s budget deficit. The 2022 budget for the district forecasts a $3.18 million deficit.
If passed, the tax rate increase would generate an extra $6.21 million in revenue to allow the district to address its deficit, while also keeping the district at the lowest blended tax rate in St. Louis County. The 2021 blended tax rate is 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
The tax rate increase would also provide funds to begin replacing the No. 6 and No. 7 fire engine houses.
“We continue to face financial challenges from many directions. … as expenses continue to climb. … Our 2022 budget reflects that expenses are going to exceed revenue by over $3 million dollars, so we’re utilizing $3 million of our reserves … Our preliminary five-year projection forecasts that by the year 2027, our deficit will be close to $7.5 million,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Bond said at an earlier meeting in January when the increase was first discussed.
According to Bond, the increase would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $95 a year, or around $7.92 a month.
In addition to addressing budget shortfalls as well as facility needs, Bond said that the tax rate increase could help firehouse staffing.
“There’s also an industry-wide lack of qualified candidates and the wage and benefit competition from the other fire protection districts poses a challenge to attract and retain employees,” Bond said.
This is the first tax increase introduced in the district in several years. In 2009, fire district residents voted in favor of two tax-rate decreases.
Chief Brian Hendricks said for the district to continue its same level of service, the community would have to help if the increase is placed on the ballot.