Brentwood Library Tax Could Have Doubled: Wouldn't Have Been Nickel Increase

The Hancock amendment had reduced the library tax over the years, which complicated the increase approved by voters in August.

Brentwood residents will pay the tax they were told they would pay when they passed Brentwood’s Proposition L on August 7.

That may seem obvious, and right, but getting there wasn't easy.

The decision was the result of heated discussions at the Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday and a quickly-called library board meeting Wednesday.

At issue, was the definition of the rate residents are currently paying.

They are paying approximately 15 cents per $100 of valuation, but it could have been more.

That’s because the same year Brentwood voters last approved a library tax levy, 1984, the Hancock Amendment went into effect, which rolled back taxes. So while voters approved a 25-cent rate, they never actually paid it.

So in August, voters didn’t vote on a nickel increase from their current rate of 15 cents to 20 cents. They voted on, and approved, a nickel increase from 25 cents to 30 cents–that is what was asked in the proposal.

Effectively, as a result of the vote, the rate would go from 15 to 30 cents.

Ways and Means committee member Andy Leahy didn’t like it, and he let library director Vicki Woods, who was at the meeting, know.

“My problem is that my tax last year was $72 for the library,” he said “By approving this rate, I will look at $140. Do you understand that people won’t see that as a nickel increase?”

Woods said the way the ballot was written wasn’t false.

“We weren’t deceiving anybody,” she said. “If you were being charged the 25 cents that voters approved in 1984, it would have been a nickel increase.”

Woods said the library board sets the rate, not the Ways and Means Committee.

“The library board district is its own separate entity,” she said. “Let me put it this way: the city of Brentwood could go away and the library would still exist.”

On Wednesday, the library board called a special meeting to discuss the rate.

They wrestled with what they could do legally, which the voters approved, and under the circumstances, what they perceived might be the right thing to do.

Board member Brian Rothery said they had devoted a considerable amount of discussion to the net effect of a 5-cent increase on the tax.

“The reality is, it is complicated stuff,” he said in the meeting. “We were trying to calculate Hancock, and what would happen.”

He said when they came up with the $19 per $200,000 home, they truly believed that would be the net increase of the tax, and he said those numbers were published in campaign literature.

“While we do have it in our legal right to seek more, I do think it is the right thing to do, to vote in favor of what would resemble what we presented in our written materials,” he said.

The board could have legally voted to increase the rate from 15 to 30 cents, but they didn’t.

They voted unanimously to effectively increase the rate from 15 to 20 cents, which is truly a nickel increase for residents.

Alderwoman Maureen Saunders is on the Ways and Means Committee, and also went to the library board meeting.  She was happy with the outcome.

“I am so proud of our library board and its staff,” she said after the meeting. “The library board agreed to only increase the library tax rate by a nickel even when they found out at the last minute that they could actually increase the rate by 15 cents to the 30-cent ceiling. They honored what they told the public and are a wonderful example of good governance.”

Mr. Completely September 09, 2012 at 05:28 PM
There is no notice posted that the Constitution or Bill of Rights has been suspended in Brentwood so we’re all still entitled to an opinion and a voice to make that opinion heard so good luck with that “liable” claim. True, people are looking for a snake under every rock at city hall, why is that? IMO the message sent by city hall to residents is as follows: steal from the city, no problem as long as you’re part of the good ole boy network. Here’s the analogy: Where do you work? If you are a department head that allowed subordinates to illegally collect payroll for unworked overtime for decades do you think you’d be given a retirement party, pension and be fawned over by your superiors? That’s what happened in Brentwood with the firef chief when the no-show firefighter overtime gig was uncovered. This was public money! Hey let’s throw a party for the chief!!! Again, where do you work? If you got caught stealing money from your employer by using a company credit card for personal expenses and were arrested, charged with a felony and fired would your employer give you a cash settlement for unused vacation & sick days along with a pension and then write a letter to the court asking for probation? That’s what happened in Bentwood when the city manager was caught stealing with a city credit card. AGAIN, Public money! Hey, he’s a nice guy. Can he get a break? So are people wrong to assume that there are still snakes in city hall? You decide.
Geoff Peterson September 09, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Julie: if this were "a move to put more money in the state coffers" it would be illegal because the library and city are separate taxing entities and their funds must be (and remain) separate according to state law and state library law, and this stems from what Attorney General John Danforth summarized in 1972. I’m guessing that the City has never taken money from the Library fund before because the Library has historically had such a meager budget (based on how low it is now) that they would easily notice that funds were missing. But that’s just a guess that could be confirmed by a Library representative or City representative. But would pursuing that answer be worth the effort? From the sidelines (I didn’t attend either meeting but you attended both) it seems like there’s already been a lot of wasted effort: Ways and Means has no jurisdiction over the Library budget or tax rate, and yet it took up time and effort from the Ways and Means meeting. And why did the Library call an emergency board meeting other than to address what popped up from Ways and Means? I have no idea how much extra time this issue has cost the City and the Library, but it can't be negligible.
Geoff Peterson September 17, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Well, it looks like the Library's website posted the most recent meeting minutes (http://brentwood.lib.mo.us/node/1725). Not sure how to frame those minutes in context of the contradicting allegations in this thread, the Seemayer legal action article thread and the Board of Alderman and Ways and Means minutes. Anyone care to take a stab at it? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Julie Pozzo September 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The minutes posted by the library board are far from accurate, not complete, and statements taken out of context. As I stated earlier, when the library became aware they could take a 15 cent increase instead of the 5 cent increase, the temptation was great, but in the end they did what was right. At the Ways and Means Committee meeting the CITY presented the 2012 estimated tax rates and revenues. In the breakdown of the city's tax rate, the library board's residential tax rate was listed as .3080. Vicki Woods was first questioned by Alderman Leahy and then Alderwoman Saunders about the 15 cent increase. They noted that it was presented to the voters as only a 5 cent increase not a 15 cent increase. Both Aldermen were uncomfortable with this. When Alderwoman Saunders and I found out the library board was having an emergency meeting to vote on the increase, she and I decided to attend the meeting with the sole purpose to encourage the board to do the right thing by only taking the 5 cent increase as promised to the voter. If anyone believes otherwise that is their prerogative. However, I would encourage everyone to attend city meetings. They are open to the public.
Ash Morgan September 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Julie, that's awful that the posted minutes are so flagrantly wrong! Since the minutes are part of the official record and you were at that meeting you should fight the library board to HAVE THE MINUTES CHANGED! And since Doug Miner was at the meeting and he records everything he attends, you could ask for the audio and point out exactly where the library board screwed up in their minutes! Go get 'em!!!


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