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By a vote of 5-0, the St. Charles County Council approved rolled-back 2022 personal property tax rates of 19.24 cents for Road and Bridge and 3.70 cents for Dispatch and Alarm. The decision came at the body's Sept. 26 meeting with council members Joe Cronin (District 1) and John White (District 7)  absent/excused.

In prior council meetings, County Executive Steve Ehlmann, council members, and other county leaders had surfaced an issue that would have forced unsuspecting personal property taxpayers to pay more tax, just because of unusually high used and new vehicle values caused by pandemic-related supply chain shortages.

If the same personal property tax rates from 2021 had been used, for example, the higher valuation of used and new vehicles would have resulted in tax bills estimated to be more than $800,000 higher than in 2021 for the same vehicles.

At Ehlmann’s request, Bill No. 5100 had been introduced at the Sept. 12 council meeting with a public hearing on the rate rollback conducted on Sept. 26. 

The voluntary rate rollbacks remove the portion of the county’s property taxes that are attributable to the nearly 30% increase that has taken place in the past year on motor vehicle bluebook values. It will result in approximate taxpayer savings of $683,863 from the Road and Bridge Fund and $128,224 from the Dispatch and Alarm Fund, according to county officials.

Prior to the vote, Ehlmann and Director of Administration Bob Schnur reinforced what had been described at prior council meetings. They described again the coming windfall to other jurisdictions within St. Charles County, including school districts.

According to a spreadsheet shared by Schnur, the local school districts will see about $5 million each in additional revenue as a result of the artificial increase in NADA vehicle values. The total windfall is estimated to be about $24 million in higher taxes.

Ehlmann and Schnur pointed out that council members should expect numerous phone calls from angry taxpayers, surprised at the 20-25% increase in tax bills they will receive in the next 45 days or so. Schnur clarified that even though the tax payments go to the county collector of revenue, the county only receives a portion of the total tax bill. 

“We don’t get all of those funds; we just get the taxes for road and bridge and dispatch/alarm," Schnur explained. "The vast majority of funds go to the other political subdivisions in the county, such as school districts and fire departments.”

Schnur and Ehlmann reiterated that those other county entities do not appear to have done any rate roll-backs, and seem content to accept the windfalls. Both said the “real fix for this is in Jefferson City,” with corrective state bills having failed early this year (passed in the House but failed in the state senate).

The officials said County Assessor Scott Shipmann had been tirelessly championing rate roll-backs to avoid the windfalls, and also pushing for longer-term legislative solutions at the state level to prevent similar problems in the future. 

Just prior to the vote, council member Terry Hollander (District 5) noted that the "reality is, it’s already done.” Most jurisdictions already have set their rates and it is too late to change them before 2022 tax bills are sent. Ehlmann said the county government did what it could, did their part, and got the word out, but no one else seemed to listen.

Ehlmann, Schnur, and several council members lamented that “the media for the most part have gone dark” about the tax rates and imminent windfalls.

After the vote, council chairperson Nancy Schneider (District 6), encouraged everyone to contact their state representatives and senators about the issue.

John is a news reporter covering O’Fallon. He has lived in the greater St. Louis area for 47 years, with 22 in O’Fallon. He is a graduate of UMSL evening college, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a minor in Political Science. John retired after a 46-plus year career in banking and insurance operations and IT, including his last seven years as an executive with international responsibilities and considerable travel to 25 countries on 5 continents. He and his wife have a daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren, also in O’Fallon. He is happy his grandchildren now can beat him in golf.

 

John is a news reporter covering the city of O’Fallon and St. Charles County government. He and his wife live in O’Fallon. They have a daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren, also in O’Fallon. He is happy his grandchildren now ca

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