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St. Louis files lawsuit to challenge narrow defeat of property tax increase

St. Louis files lawsuit to challenge narrow defeat of property tax increase

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St. Louis is challenging the narrow defeat of a property tax increase that supporters hoped would help the city tackle its blight problem.

The mayor's office announced Thursday that the city has filed a lawsuit in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court to determine whether or not Proposition NS was passed by voters in April. The city's position is that the proposal is governed by the state constitution, which requires only four-sevenths voter approval — or roughly 57 percent of the vote — and not the city's charter, which requires a tougher two-thirds threshold of more than 66 percent.

Based on the city charter standard, the measure failed this spring with just over 58 percent of voters approving it. The city now argues the motion passed under state law.

The proposition would raise annual property taxes by $11 per every $100,000 of a property's market value. The increase would then be used to secure bonds to pay for the rehabbing of city-owned residential properties, and eliminated once the bonds are paid off.

It would authorize the city to issue up to $40 million in general obligation bonds, not exceeding $6 million annually, to stabilize abandoned houses and buildings.

The St. Louis Association of Community Organizations and other city residents who backed the initiative contended it would make such properties easier to sell to developers, ultimately bringing more property tax revenue into the city and improving property values in neighborhoods. 

"LRA owns 3,400 vacant buildings. Funds from Proposition NS will be used to stabilize and secure the residential buildings that are able to be rehabbed," said Mayor Lyda Krewson in a statement. "Repairing or replacing the roof, tuckpointing and boarding up buildings are important to keeping them water-tight, and encourage development so they can be lived in once again."

Krewson says the rehabilitation will help reduce crime and draw more people to St. Louis, widening the city's dwindling tax base.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter.

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