South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Senior property tax freeze legislation advanced by St. Louis County Council

Bill allocates $300,000 for program’s implementation
Photo by Erin Achenbach
Fifth District Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, center, listens to members of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership board testify in 2019 along with 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, left, and 7th District Councilman Mark Harder.

The St. Louis County Council is moving forward with legislation that would commit $300,000 to start the senior property tax freeze program. 

Introduced by 3rd District Councilman Dennis Hancock, R-Fenton, at the April 16 meeting, the legislation allocates $85,000 for necessary software and $215,000 to cover staffing costs. It also extends the application period until June 2025. 

The senior property tax freeze aims to assist homeowners aged 67 and above with home values up to $550,000 and is designed to lock in tax rates at the time of application. The measure has faced financial hurdles, however. 

Director of the Department of Revenue Tony Smee said that an estimated $1.8 million is needed to run the program. 

Sixth District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, pushed for higher funding, suggesting it was essential for the program’s success. He introduced his own substitute bill that would allocate $930,270 from the General Revenue Fund to support implementing the senior tax freeze program. 

“We have an obligation to honor the commitment that was made to seniors six months ago, to put in place a senior tax cap,” Trakas said. “To do anything less, or to simply point to some pending legislation that doesn’t provide one-third of this money is really disingenuous that money won’t do anything to enable the Department of Revenue to implement this tax cap except to give people a talking point to say ‘See, we tried’ and let’s kick the can down the road for another year.” 

Trakas’ substitution ultimately failed to move forward. 

Concerns about the disparity between the department’s request and the approved amount were voiced by 5th Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, R-Maplewood, who stressed the need to rely on departmental expertise.

“I’m concerned about the discrepancy and why we would not leave it up to the experts in our departments who are living and breathing this every day and yield to them and what they say is needed,” Clancy said. “We want to work in good faith to truly implement this program, that is a big concern of mine.” 

The move to fund the tax freeze comes amidst a backdrop of legal pressures. Former state Rep. David Gregory, R-Sunset Hills, announced a lawsuit April 15 against County Executive Sam Page for alleged delays in implementing the program. 

Surrounding counties, like St. Charles, have already begun similar senior property tax freezes. St. Charles County’s applications for their tax freeze rolled out in March, shortly after legislation permitting the freeze passed in February.

Despite the challenges, supporters of the tax freeze remain optimistic about its potential benefits. Council Chair Shalonda Webb, a Democrat from North County, emphasized that they could always return to the program’s funding further down the line. 

“It is important that while we are making the decisions to implement this program, that we make sure they have what they need for the program,” Webb said. “This does not mean that they can’t come back to the table … It may not be your end, but it’s a starting ground.”

“I believe this number of $300,000 … is appropriate,” added 7th District Republican Councilman Mark Harder.

The council could pass the bill April 23.