Tax hikes for schools expected to be top Election Day draws in St. Louis County
Tuesday is Election Day for parts of St. Louis County. And while off-year elections typically don’t bring out a huge number of voters, property hike proposals in the Kirkwood and Mehlville School Districts could bring out more people than usual.
(Kirkwood School District voters will decide whether to raise property taxes by 78 cents for every $100 of assessed value. Mehlville School District residents will consider a 49 cents per $100 of assessed value property tax hike.)
There’s also a special election to fill the state House seat that became vacant when former House Speaker John Diehl resigned. Republican Dean Plocher and Democrat Al Gerber are vying for the seat that tilts toward the GOP.
“It’s less than a quarter of the registered voters in the county that have something on the ballot next Tuesday,” said Eric Fey, the Democratic director of elections for St. Louis County. “I would say in the state rep district and all the other municipal jurisdictions, I’m guessing between 10 and 15 percent turnout. In the two school districts, especially in Mehlville, it’s very likely that turnout will top 20 percent.”
Fey characterized Tuesday as “a fairly normal, odd-year November election.” It’s typically when cities put on ballot items to increase taxes or change aspects of their administrative governance.
For example: Velda Village Hills and Bel-Ridge voters will decide whether to become fourth-class cities. They are now villages. Fey said that would allow those towns to issue certain types of taxes, which may be increasingly necessary in the wake of a new state law restricting the percentage of traffic fine revenue cities can keep.
Meanwhile, several cities are considering specific tax increases: Edmundson voters will choose whether to attach a business license fee on rental car companies and a property tax hike for commercial property. Florissant residents will decide the fate of a one-quarter of 1 percent tax hikes on retail sales to pay for street repairs.
And in addition to authorizing a property tax increase to pay for police and fire pensions, Berkeley voters will decide on whether to approve a raft of charter amendments. They include making it harder to recall members of the city council; allowing the council to make “emergency appropriations;” and allowing vacancies on the city council to be filled by the mayor with the approval of the remaining councilmembers.
"In charter situations usually … to amend the charter, you have to have a vote of the people," Fey said. "But then the City Council will have to pass an ordinance actually putting those provisions in place if they are to pass."
(Berkeley Mayor Ted Hoskins did not return a phone call and an e-mail to talk about the amendments.)
Tuesday’s elections are in some ways a warm up for next year. In addition to a number of local elections, 2016 should bring about higher turnout for presidential primaries, state primary elections and the November general election.