he Ellisville City Council, on Sept. 6, approved preparation of legislation to reduce the residential property tax rate by 5 percent in the city’s next fiscal year, with the additional possibility of 5 percent cuts for the following three years.
The vote followed a public hearing on the same topic. Only Councilmember Vince McGrath [District 1] was opposed.
The current residential rate, which has remained consistent for 12 years, is 15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. According to an example estimate by Administrative Services Director Don Cary, a home valued at $200,000 will save about $2.85 annually with the 5 percent reduction in place.
Councilmembers Ken Newhouse [District 2] and Cindy Pool [District 3] spearheaded the tax reduction on the grounds of breaking the trend of the county asking local voters to approve tax increases at each election cycle.
“In general, Ellisville doesn’t usually ask for tax increases, but the county and other municipalities routinely ask at each election cycle,” Newhouse said. “Whether it’s in April or during a special election in August or June, it’s just every election cycle, the county or municipalities always ask for tax increases.”
According to Newhouse, the county asked for a sales tax increase in April 2017 and a property tax increase in November 2016.
“I’m sure, even last year, there were more municipalities asking for increases,” Newhouse said. “I think it’s time for Ellisville to take the lead and change that trend.”
In an online poll Newhouse conducted last month, 60 residents were polled and about 76 percent were in favor of reducing the residential property tax rate.
“Property taxes are not favored by many people, and I just think when you’re paying hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in residential property taxes, I think saving $5 or $10 here or there is greatly appreciated,” Newhouse said.
According to Pool, the legislation if approved would establish the 5-percent reduction; however, the reduction would still need to be annually renewed by the council.
“If we have a bad year, we don’t have to renew the reduction,” Pool said. “Or it can even be a one-time thing, whether they want to reduce again or not. That’s kind of the safe part. Basically, this is a gesture to our residents saying, ‘Hey, we know it’s not easy.’
“Even though it might not be a huge amount of money, we’re definitely willing to try and help people out a little bit.”
McGrath opposed the reduction without further study and examination, citing the possibility of more vacancies in the city mirroring the shut down of Lucky’s Market. Concern also was expressed about whether saving money on taxes would create enough of a deficit that the city would have to annually charge for items like trash collection.
According to Newhouse, the property tax cut would result in a revenue loss of about $10,000. An Aug. 30 memo from City Manager Bill Schwer estimates property tax revenue at about $215,000 next year, which confirms that a 5-percent decrease would equate to about $10,750.
Petco Animal Supplies, which is scheduled to fill the vacant space left by Sports Authority in Ellisville Square off Manchester Road, was cited as an example of filling current business vacancies.
“I honestly think that Petco, being part of the $75 billion pet industry, is more than enough to offset the lost tax revenue,” Newhouse said. “I honestly have no concerns that we are going to have a fiscal crisis with this.”
The bill’s first reading is scheduled for the Sept. 20 city council meeting.
“I’d encourage everyone to come and voice their opinions in favor or against this very important piece of legislation,” Newhouse said.