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Council takes first step that could end St. George, hears reassessment request

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2011 - The St. Louis County Council has introduced a bill to set a Nov. 8 election to decide whether the community of St. George remains.

The municipality's current mayor and a majority of its aldermen support disincorporation, saying that the community doesn't provide enough services to justify its existence. A majority of the residents has signed petitions seeking the vote.

Tuesday night's introduction of the bill sets in motion a process that should result in the measure's passage later this month.

As the Beacon reported earlier, the council also heard the formal request by county Revenue Director Eugene Leung for $63,000 to handle the unexpected surge in appeals of county property reassessment figures.

The county had budgeted for 14,000 appeals, but more than 18,000 were filed. The extra money is needed to pay for the staff and hearing officers to handle the appeals, which must be completed by the end of this month.

The 18,000 appeals are on par with the number filed in 2007, Leung said. The county saw a decline to 16,000 appeals in 2009 and wrongly expected that fewer appeals would be filed this year.

Leung told reporters that he suspects two factors were responsible for the higher appeals:

  • The county had made it easier to file appeals, with a form available online.
  • The continued poor economy has continued to depress property values.

The assessed values are based, by state law, on the estimated value of the property last Jan. 1. Leung said some appeals may reflect homeowners' beliefs that their property values have declined further during the year, but he emphasized that the county cannot take such drops into account because of the state law.
Leung said he will shift money around from other accounts to cover temporarily the added appeal costs, but added that it was crucial that he get the extra money by the end of the month.

The council indicated that there would be no controversy in allocating the additional money. County Executive Charlie Dooley declined comment, telling reporters that they should direct all questions regarding reassessments to new elected county Assessor Jake Zimmerman.

Zimmerman has emphasized that the assessments were conducted prior to his election and swearing-in last April.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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