Study shows MFPD taxpayers would pay dearly for city-county merger

Letter to the Editor

To the editor:
I recently reviewed Better Together’s Fire Protection Study that proposes creating a single regional fire district.
The study, if implemented, will require the merger of the 23 St. Louis County fire protection districts and 19 municipal departments with the city of St. Louis Fire Department. Moreover, it requires the hiring of an additional 1,255 fire personnel, building 24 more firehouses and acquiring 66 more fire trucks, ambulances and other apparatus.
Only one of the new firehouses is proposed for the Mehlville Fire Protection District geographic area.
Along with raising tax rates to support the new hires and fire stations, the study also requires that all current fire districts and departments attain a tax-rate parity. To obtain this parity, the study notes that some districts and departments will have to increase their current tax rates while others may actually decrease.
The Mehlville Fire Protection District’s residential tax rate of 65.4 cents per $100 of assessed valuation is the lowest of any district or department by a considerable amount, yet the study establishes a tax rate of $1.5978 per $100 as the necessary tax base for achieving a tax parity for the new regional district.
For Mehlville Fire Protection District residents, the MFPD’s current highly efficient and effective tax rate would have to be surrendered and increased by a factor of 2.44 to achieve the desired tax-parity rate.
The report also states that the total current annual costs for all districts, departments and the city of St. Louis is $334 million.
The cost for the desired additional new personnel, including wages and benefits, and capital improvements for the new regional district will result in an additional annual cost of $192 million for a total annual cost of operation of $525 million. This results in an additional cost factor of 1.575.
Combined, the effect of these two actions likely would result in the largest single tax-rate increase ever imposed on the Mehlville community.
Employing the two factors above, taxpayers can readily see the direct personal impact upon them. Simply take the MFPD tax amount shown on your current property tax bill, multiply it first by the 2.44 factor, then take that result and multiply it by the second factor of 1.575.
Applying this to my 2016 property-tax amount, my annual tax bill will increase by $1,246.
Once again, south county residents will be footing the bill for St. Louis County. Note that the same factors can be applied to your personal property tax bill.
It makes you wonder: Will the city-county merger be nothing more than an opportunity for every special-interest group to satisfy its sweet tooth?
William Hogan