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Missourians to decide on assessor position

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY – Citizens from across Missouri will decide whether the St. Louis County assessor should be elected rather than appointed.

The Missouri House voted Tuesday in favor of an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would make an assessor, who tabulates real property value, an elected official. Ultimately, voter approval will be needed to amend the state Constitution.

Missouri senators approved the amendment in late March, and with Tuesday's result in the Missouri House, the measure will be put to voters in the November 2010 general election. 

The amendment in question would require assessors to be elected in all counties that have a charter form of government, but it would make an exception for Jackson County, where Kansas City is located. Jefferson County and St. Charles County in eastern Missouri already elect county assessors, leaving St. Louis County as the only chartered county that would be affected by the amendment.

Supporters of the proposal say the change would bring greater accountability to property assessments in St. Louis County and would cut down on unfairly assessed property.

"As people are elected, there's no doubt that they're more accountable to the people," said Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, who is a former county assessor. "All of us are accountable to the people because they're the people who are our boss."

Some St. Louis County representatives, such as Democrat Jake Zimmerman, said county citizens could take measures to change its charter if they felt assessors should be elected.

"I'm flattered and I'm honored that gentlemen from such distinguished places as Warren County and St. Charles County care so deeply about the needs of my constituents," he said, "but Mr. Speaker, you know what? Why don't you let those people handle county issues through their own county government? ... Let's face it, what's going on here is a deliberate, narrow attack by a couple of people with an ax to grind against our county executive."

According to the St. Louis County charter, the county director of revenue appoints the assessor.


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