Lawyer Questions State Law on Taxation of New Homes

Article excerpt

A state law that allows counties to put new houses on the property tax rolls in the next month after they are occupied may violate the state constitution, says St. Louis County Counselor John Ross.

He recommended that the County Council give up lobbying the Legislature to change the law to make it acceptable in both developing and built-up areas. The council's revenue and personnel committee took no action last week on a resolution supporting changes in the law.

St. Charles County has used the system for about five years. No one has challenged it in court, said Brenda Muschany, the deputy assessor.

Now, new houses in St. Louis County do not go on the tax rolls until Jan. 1 of the year after residents move in. Taxes levied on those houses would not be collected until the following December. Residents could live in a house for nearly two years without paying taxes for schools and the fire protection service.

Officials of cities and school and fire protection districts in developing areas want the county to take advantage of a state law that would put new houses on the tax rolls on the first day of the month after they are occupied.

County officials estimated last week that the Rockwood School District would have gained about $530,000 last year from the change in assessment procedure. The Metro West Fire Protection District would have picked up about $86,000 more and the Mehlville fire district, $49,000.

But a provision of the bill raises the assessor's fee against property tax collections in any county that adopts the change. That increase causes many entities in built-up areas to lose money. They have to pay the increased fee but have few new houses added to the rolls. …