“Call the Tune” by Mike Anthony
More than eight years ago, naysayers had all kinds of gloom-and-doom predictions for the future of the Mehlville Fire Protection District when the Board of Directors placed two measures on the ballot to reduce the district’s tax rate by 40 cents.
In fact, a lawsuit was filed in an effort to remove the measures from the ballot, but that legal challenge was unsuccessful. Two years earlier, opponents were successful in removing a similar measure from the ballot.
Not surprisingly, voters in April 2009 overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, which cut the district’s general fund tax-rate ceiling by 36 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, and Proposition 2, which reduced the district’s pension fund tax-rate ceiling by 4 cents per $100.
Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer has noted that MFPD residents were the first in the state to vote on tax-rate-decrease measures, which he calculates as saving taxpayers roughly $10.5 million annually.
None of opponents’ dire predictions came to pass, however. They had predicted the same kind of negative consequences for the district back in 2005 when the board opted not to apply a 33-cent tax-rate increase approved by voters in November 2004, instead setting the district’s blended tax rate at 86.5 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Hilmer and Treasurer Bonnie Stegman, who were elected in April 2005, had promised voters that they would roll back the 33-cent tax-rate increase.
Critics contended the board could not roll back the district’s tax rate and improve services. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The board — Hilmer, Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan, who was first elected in 2007 — continues to exercise sound fiscal stewardship over the fire district, while enhancing the services it provides to residents.
That’s evidenced by the district’s recently launched critical care paramedic program. Critical care paramedics have the ability to perform advanced clinical patient assessments and provide invasive care beyond the standard scope of treatment to patients.
The MFPD is the only fire department in St. Louis County with a critical care paramedic program.
Just last week, the board voted unanimously to set the district’s 2017 blended tax rate at 68.1 cents per $100 of assessed valuation — the lowest in St. Louis County for the 12th consecutive year.
We believe other taxing entities could take a lesson from the MFPD on how to do so much more with less.