The St. George Fire Department will hold a May 2 election for a tax renewal and increase after the Metro Council gave it the go-ahead Wednesday despite rejecting the election earlier this month.
A split 6-6 vote at the previous council meeting made it appear the Fire Department would have to wait until fall at the earliest for an election. But St. George Fire Chief Gerard Tarleton tailored the new ballot language to fit what the council members asked for last time, leading it to sail through the council Wednesday.
Voters will see two ballot measures, both 10-year taxes. One calls for a 1.25-mill property tax renewal, while the other asks for a 2-mill property tax increase that Tarleton has said would pay for capital improvements like a new station in the Nicholson/Bluebonnet area and better water systems.
Property tax bills would stay the same if only the renewal passes. If the increase passes, bills would go up by $35 annually for homeowners with $250,000 homestead-exempt houses, Tarleton said. For a $100,000 house, homeowners would pay an extra $5 a year.
“Everybody’s happy,” Tarleton said after the vote. Many firefighters filed through the council chambers, and Mayor-President Kip Holden was among those who asked the council members to vote for the tax election this time.
The tense environment in which the council failed to approve the Fire Department’s tax election last time had evaporated. The department’s original proposal had combined the taxes, giving voters only the option to increase the property tax from 1.25 mills to 3.25 mills for 20 years.
Council members said at the last meeting that the time frame was too long, and some said they could support a tax renewal but not an increase.
This time, nine council members voted for the tax renewal election and one voted against it. Seven council members voted for the tax increase election, two voted against it and one abstained.
The only council member to vote against the tax renewal election was Chauna Banks-Daniel, who said she would have supported an election if it were in the fall. She and Councilman John Delgado both voted against holding the tax increase election, while Councilman Buddy Amoroso abstained from the vote for the increase.
Amoroso said at the last meeting that he would not support the Fire Department’s tax election unless it was moved to the fall.
Council members Ryan Heck and C. Denise Marcelle were not present for the vote.
The St. George Fire Department’s current property tax rate is 14 mills, broken into five different taxes. The department also collects a $32 annual service fee per structure.