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Corrigan lays out proposed property tax moratorium

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 25, 2009 - Bill Corrigan, a Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive next year, followed through with his plans to announce today a tax reform plan that his campaign says "focuses on taxpayer protection."

But a key plank of his plan -- capping the increase in property values to the rate of inflation -- would likely require legislative action.

And other parts of his plan would require the cooperation of the voters, or other tax-supported entities, such as a schools and fire protection districts, that are not under control of the county government.

Still, Corrigan said after his news conference in Clayton that, if elected, he'd press those other tax-supported bodies to consider his plea. He also predicted that the Republican-controlled state Legislature would be amenable to his proposals.

“Unfair taxes are crippling the St. Louis County economy, halting growth, limiting prosperity and punishing taxpayers,” Corrigan said. 

He also took aim at the Democratic incumbent, Charlie Dooley.  "Charlie Dooley has offered few solutions and no leadership on tax reform to help St. Louis County families," Corrigan said.

"Instead, during his two terms in office, Dooley has worked to raise taxes and oversee a broken and unfair tax system."

However, Dooley campaign manager/spokesman John Temporiti said that Corrigan is loose with the facts. "Charlie Dooley has, for six years, continued to freeze the county's assessment rate, and lowered it in 2008 by 3.5 cents,'' Temporiti said.

Temporiti contended that Corrigan's failure to initially recognize that state approval would be needed to enact his plan shows that he's not prepared to run the state's largest county.

Corrigan's plan has six major points:

1.      "Impose a moratorium on raising property tax rates"
2.      "Cap the increase in property values to the rate of inflation"
3.      "Elect a County Assessor"
4.      "Keep jobs and attract businesses through fair and consistent taxes"
5.      "Make current assessments realistic and fair"
6.      "Utilize a consistent and accurate comparable sales assessment process"
“My plan will lower taxes, create jobs, attract businesses, protect taxpayers, and get St. Louis County’s tax system under control and off the backs of local taxpayers,” Corrigan said.

He contended that he could enact his proposals without cutting county services.

Corrigan also observed in his plan that the county's sales tax rate is almost 8 percent, which the candidate asserted is "higher than in most major Midwestern metropolitan areas."

He acknowledged that today's announcement is timed to the recent mailings of this year's property tax bills, many of which are just now being received by property owners.

But the plan does face some challenges.  First, the St. Louis County government portion of a typical  property tax is small -- only about 7.4 cents of every tax dollar.

More than half of the local property taxes paid by the typical county landowner goes to the local public school district, followed by the Special School district, the local municipal government and any fire protection district.

All told, said Temporiti, those other entities represent 92.6 cents of every $1 in county taxes.

St. Louis County voters already are slated to vote next year on whether to transform the county's appointed assessor job into an elective post.  Dooley says he'll support whatever voters decide.

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.