JEFFERSON CITY — Even if voters back Amendment 1 on Election Day, it's unclear whether the ballot initiative would have any immediate effect.
The ballot initiative would amend the state constitution to require that counties with charter forms of government elect, rather than appoint, their assessors. Theoretically, the initiative would affect only four counties in the state: St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jackson County and Jefferson County.
The measure could prove moot for now because St. Charles and Jefferson counties already elect their assessors and, in August, St. Louis County voted to begin electing its assessors in April 2011. Jackson County would be unaffected because the provision exempts any charter county with a population between 600,000 and 700,000 residents. Jackson County recorded 670,000 residents in the 2008 Census.
State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, proposed Amendment 1 as a resolution during the 2009 legislative session. He said he did not specifically target Jackson County in the legislation because he represents St. Louis County.
"Personally, I think that would be a good thing, but I'll let Jackson County deal with that. I went up there as an elected representative from St. Louis County; that was really my main goal," Schmitt said. "At the end of the day that's what we've been able to accomplish, and I'm proud of that."
Jackson County spokesman Dan Ferguson agreed the initiative will have no impact on that government.
“Here specifically in Jackson County, we don’t have any sort of movement or feeling that the assessor needs to be elected,” Ferguson said.
Schmitt said, however, that the initiative made more sense a year ago, before St. Louis County passed a similar measure on its own.
Assessors are in charge of determining the property values of both real and personal property within their district. Those values, in turn, are used to calculate tax bills.
State Tax Commission Chief Counsel Randy Turley, who oversees the state's assessors and ensures they are doing their jobs, said he hasn't seen any difference in the accuracy of assessments between elected and nonelected assessors.
Even so, Schmitt stands behind his legislation, saying it solidifies the accountability of the property assessors.
"The St. Charles assessor has been noted in a (University of Missouri-St. Louis) study as one of the most accurate assessors in the state, so we really look at that model for this legislation," he said.
Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said he likes the idea behind the initiative.
"The people in St. Louis County will have a more responsible assessor if they elect them," Schauwecker said. He said recent trends in the real estate market that have pushed property taxes higher might have contributed to sentiment in St. Louis that its assessor should be elected.
Schauwecker said the measure would affect Boone County if it ever decided to adopt a charter form of government.