Rep. Lembke to introduce tax-decrease legislation

State legislator reacts to ballot removal of Mehlville fire district’s Prop TD


A state representative said earlier this week that he will introduce legislation that would allow an elected board to place a tax-rate decrease before voters.

“It’s my understanding that currently in statute, an elected board of a fire district or any other taxing entity does not have the ability to put before the voters a (proposal) to lower an approved levy,” state Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, told the Call.

A St. Louis County Circuit Court judge last week removed a tax-decrease proposition that the Mehlville Fire Protection District board had placed on the April ballot.

A lawsuit filed Feb. 7 by Concord resident Dennis Skelton, founder of Protecting our Protectors, or POP, sought the removal of the tax-rate-decrease measure from the ballot.

In a ruling issued the next day, Judge James R. Hartenbach ordered Proposition TD removed from the April 3 ballot.

“… What the district was trying to do, the board, my understanding, was to go back to the people: You approved this, this ceiling, we don’t need it any more so we’re going to give you the opportunity to lower the ceiling,” Lembke said.

“… According to my understanding of the statute, they don’t have the power to do that. Now, I don’t agree with that statute. I think those elected to represent us at any level, whether it be a local fire district or school board or those serving in Jeff City, should have the ability to put back in front of the people the opportunity for them to lower their taxing threshold. So I will be introducing a bill to that effect,” he said.

The representative said he hoped to introduce the bill as soon as possible.

Once drafted, he will see if it can be attached to a bill currently going through the legislative process.

“If not, I’ll have to introduce it and take it through committee and the whole bit. But I’ll be prepared. If there is something that fits under the title, I’ll try to hang it on something else,” Lembke said. “… I want to make it clear that this is, I believe, my responsibility as an elected representative here to give the taxpayers the opportunity to be able to affect their own destiny as far as taxes are concerned. We should give the taxpayers every opportunity. That said … this really doesn’t reflect any position I had on Prop TD. I always encourage local elected officials to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and what the members of the Mehlville fire board were trying to do is give again the people the opportunity to affect how they’re taxed. I don’t see how you can go wrong with that …

“We need to be able to take before the voters the opportunity, when needed, for them to vote a tax increase. But then if all prudent measures have been taken and you see that it isn’t necessary, I think it shows good fiscal stewardship for a board to say: ‘You know what? Let’s put this back before the voters and give them the opportunity to lower that threshold.’

“So, yeah, if we need to do that statutorily, I support that 100 percent.”