ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Good news for the little guy in Lemay. The County Board of Equalization has decided the assessed value of the River City Casino will stay where it was last year.
The three-member appeals board had stirred up a hornet’s nest earlier when it approved lower property tax assessments for both River City and Harrah’s casinos.
During a tense public hearing today, the board heard from school and fire district officials who warned their kindness to the casinos could force higher property taxes for homeowners and small businesses.
“It was never our intent to harm any of the taxing districts or any of the citizens,” said Board Chairwoman Leslie Broadnax, “We only simply made a decision based on what we had in front of us.”
Reversing its earlier decision to lower River City’s assessment to $164 million, the board raised it back up to where it was last year — $270 million.
That decision is expected to mean the Hancock School district would only have to seek a possible tax hike for homeowners of about an extra penny. Earlier, the district had warned it would have to seek a 61-cent tax hike, or about $200 more a year for the average homeowner.
In a separate move, the board decided to leave in place its decision to lower the property tax reassessment of Harrah’s Casino to $215 million. The County Assessor had pressed for a reassessment of $502 million for Harrah’s.
During the hearing, an attorney for Harrah’s argued passionately that it would be unfair to hike Harrah’s assessment based on its revenue. The attorney said no other business in St. Louis county pays higher property taxes based on the success of its business.
Assessor Jake Zimmerman had led the crusade to make casinos pay more, saying its a “national standard” to base a casino’s property value on the success of its operation.
Officials with the Pattonville fire district and Pattonville school district were still calculating whether today’s action might force them to seek tax hikes from their homeowners.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, faces some political backlash for his high-profile actions. County Councilman Steve Stenger is calling for the County Auditor to audit Zimmerman’s handling of the casino property tax issue. Zimmerman says he “welcomes” the scrutiny.