Serious tax reform includes tax-rate decrease proposals

Mike Anthony

Mike Anthony


The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors earlier this year sought to give voters an opportunity to consider a unique ballot measure — a tax-rate decrease.

The board voted in January to place Proposition TD, or Tax Decrease, on the April 3 ballot. Proposition TD would have given voters an opportunity to permanently reduce the district’s general-fund tax-rate ceiling by 45 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a total tax reduction of roughly $9.75 million per year.

But Concord resident Dennis Skelton — no friend of the majority of district residents as evidenced by his unsuccessful write-in campaign for the board — filed a lawsuit Feb. 7 seeking the removal of the tax-rate-decrease measure from the ballot.

In a Feb. 9 ruling, Judge James R. Hartenbach ordered Proposition TD removed from the ballot.

“The court orders that the St. Louis County Election Board is prohibited from placing Proposition TD on the April 3, 2007, ballot in the Mehlville Fire Protection District,” Judge Hartenbach stated in his order.

But the judge did not cite any legal reason for his decision. That led Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, to request a legal opinion from Attorney General Jay Nixon about placing a tax-decrease proposal before voters. But the Attorney General’s Office declined to issue an opinion, citing Judge Hartenbach’s “ruling.”

Rep. Bivins believes taxpayers and the Legislature deserve an explanation why Proposition TD was removed from the ballot. We agree.

After getting slammed with reassess-ment increases of up to 30 percent, many people are clamoring for tax reform. Consider the Citizens for Tax Relief Now or the fact that House Speaker Rod Jetton recently announced the creation of a new task force to analyze property tax rates in Missouri. Call us cynical, but we’d be surprised if those efforts realize much, if any, success.

The ability for voters to consider a tax-rate decrease proposal is tangible tax relief. Rep. Bivins realizes this and says: “I would be amenable to introducing legislation to allow people to vote to lower their taxes … I think in light of all that’s happened with the reassessment and the concern folks have with property-tax increases that it would be very popular amongst the legislators, but we’ll see.”

If people are truly serious about tax reform, then they should clearly see that not being able to vote on a tax-rate decrease proposal is a travesty.