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The assessed valuation (AV) for the area of Hazelwood served by Robertson is $37,964,870 for Residential. The total valuation is $215,765,860 because so much of Robertson’s service area is commercial and industrial. The amount of taxes that would be collected is $5.1 million. Based on the interim agreement following termination of the contract, we are currently paying Robertson $333,450 per month, per agreement with the mediator. That comes to $4,001,400 per year.
The City is attempting to find the funding solution that best fits the needs of the residents while ensuring the City has enough money to continue providing services.
The City does not have any say in the property tax rates Robertson sets. The rates are set by the Robertson Board of Directors.
The State law at the time the area was annexed required the City to pay Robertson to serve the area based on the amount of property taxes Robertson would have collected. Since the City collects taxes from all areas of the City, each area pays a portion of the Robertson and Florissant Valley costs.
The $1.3 million of savings has already been reflected in the FY2021 Budget. To break even, we would still need to save $4.48 million in FY2021.
Per Missouri State Law, only the residents within the fire district service areas can vote on fire district matters, including the previously proposed Neighborhood Improvement District (NID).
Annexation by the fire districts means that residents in those service areas would be served by those fire districts and pay taxes to those fire districts. They would also remain residents of Hazelwood and receive city services such as police, street maintenance, snow plowing, code enforcement, animal control, and parks and recreation programs.
This could be an option through a Citizen’s Initiative petition. The residents of the districts would need to bring this option forward for a vote.
We had 84 people join us via Zoom.
In 1995, when the annexation was certified, the law required the City to pay the fire districts. The contract reflected the law.
As far as audits, Robertson is audited by a certified auditor every year, as is required by law. Residents can submit a request to the State of Missouri for the State to perform an audit.
Either the City will be forced to make severe program cuts and reduce personnel or begin restructuring its contracts and bills under federal law. The City cannot "go out of business", but has not begun to study how it would restructure its contracts and bills.
It would depend on the citizen initiative placed on the ballot. A petition could include Hazelwood providing service via a mandatory contract that the voters would require Robertson to sign. It could also include Hazelwood service area annexing into the Robertson or Florissant Valley service area.
Residents in the Robertson Fire Protection District service area would pay both the $0.99 to Hazelwood for city services such as police, street maintenance, snow plowing, parks and recreation programs, code enforcement, as well as pay the $2.40 to Robertson for fire protection.
If the districts annexed their service areas into their districts, residents in districts would continue to pay the $0.99 rate to Hazelwood for city services such as police, street maintenance, snow plowing, parks and recreation programs, code enforcement, as well as paying the district taxes directly to the districts. It would reduce the City’s payments by $4 million to Robertson and $1.3 million to Florissant Valley.
Per State law, only residents in the Robertson service area would be able to vote on annexing into the Robertson Fire Protection District.
It is up to the citizens in the Robertson service area to place a question on the ballot. If the Robertson Board does not place an initiative on the ballot, residents would have to sue the District to get a judge to order it on the ballot.
On average, the difference in total compensation (pay, benefits, perks) between Hazelwood firefighters and Robertson firefighters is $20,000.
The contract reflected the State law at that time, including no ending date. The issue now is how the costs have gone up so much over the past 23 years. The City is trying to find the best long-term solution to this funding problem and am asking the residents for their input.
The City is working with Florissant Valley to study whether they would add the Hazelwood service area, eliminating the Hazelwood Fire Dept.
The City is not considering bankruptcy at this time. However, the City is required by federal and State law to continue providing services. The City has not studied how services and contracts would be affected if a long-term solution is not found.
Inflation is not a factor in the calculation of the payment. We do not know how much of a factor inflation was in determining the increases in tax rates.
The City does not have a say in how Roberson sets their rates. The City is working with Robertson and Florissant Valley to try and find a cost-effective way of continuing to provide fire (and all other) services to Hazelwood residents.
The mediator is working to help both sides find a solution that provides fire protection for all of Hazelwood without causing any organization to go broke.
The City cannot lay off Robertson firefighters. We have no control over their budget and personnel.
We would be looking at 15 police officer positions and 3 firefighter positions, which would reduce things such as a minimum of 4 firefighters on a truck per call.
The City has tried this before with the NID. Both times it was proposed, it was voted down by the residents in the Robertson service area. Annexation into Robertson by the voters would mean residents and businesses would pay the whole cost.
The State law at that time said that the City would annex, but pay Robertson to provide services based on the taxes that would have been collected. Taxes are collected throughout the City, so all residents pa for the fire service in Robertson (and Florissant Valley). The City is looking for a fair solution to this problem.
A petition would have to be signed separately by residents in each of the fire districts requesting that the City serve the area by contract. If either (or both) petitions were approved by the voters in Robertson and/or Florissant Valley, the City would provide the fire service to those areas. If either Board did not place a petition on the ballot, residents would have to sue to have a Judge order it on the ballot.
You can always find more at www.Hazelwoodmo.org/fireservice. You’ll also be able to sign up for email updates about this topic, as well as other City issues.
When the residents voted to annex into the City in the early 1990s, the law at that time allowed citizens to choose their fire service provider and have the City pay the taxes that residents would normally pay to the fire districts. In order to end litigation surrounding the annexation, the City entered into a contract with each of the districts for the districts to provide service in those areas. The City acts as a conduit, or middle-man, between the fire districts and the residents.
In order to have another district take over, a citizen’s committee would have to create a petition, gather signatures, and submit the petition the the Robertson Board of Directors. Then, the voters within the Robertson area would need to approve the petition at the election.
There are no apartment complexes that have tax exemption. Tax exemption is reserved for businesses that bring new jobs and other revenues to the City and would not be built but for the exemption.
The City is trying to find a comparison for residents. There are various models, but this is the easiest to understand and the best comparator we have.
Based on Robertson’s 2019 audit, about 52% of Robertson’s property tax revenue comes from Hazelwood.
The voters approved tax rate increases 3 times plus bond issues for equipment. Robertson’s tax rate has increased from 91 cents in 1995 to as high as $2.72 for residential property. St. Louis County has tax rates summaries dating back to 2015 at their website: https://stlouiscountymo.gov/st-louis-county-departments/revenue/tax-rates-summary/.
We understand your frustration. But both the City and Robertson are mandated by the court to participate in mediation. Robertson is considering placing a question to annex their service area on the April ballot. We hope that a long-term solution that is approved by the voters can be found.
Florissant Valley is studying possibly providing service to the Hazelwood service area.
The City has attended many of Robertson’s meetings for about 5 years.
The City did not give a $30,000 loan to the curling club, only agreed to fund a loan after they completed the building. They have since withdrawn their loan application.
Only 6 businesses in Robertson have received a loan. The vast majority of businesses in the Robertson service area do not have tax abatement or received a loan. Per State law, the money from the 1/2-cent economic development sales tax can ONLY go for non-retail uses and CANNOT be used to pay for fire service.
The Judge in Robertson’s lawsuit against the City has ordered the parties into mediation. It is his hope that the parties will be able to resolve this issue without having to go to trial. This is very common in these types of legal disputes. Either party could be subject to a ruling against it if they do not engage in good-faith mediation.
The statutory time limit to challenge the annexation expired over 20 years ago. If property in the fire district service area could lawfully be de-annexed and removed from the City, those residents would still not be “re-annexed” into the fire district, so they would still be left without any Fire and EMS services as well as City police protection, street maintenance, snow plowing, and use of park programs and facilities.
Citizen’s may file a petition with either or both districts to take a certain action, such as approve a new contract. If the voters approve the petition, the fire district is required by law to follow the will of the voters.
The courts have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only emergency cases are being heard. In addition, the Judge has made it clear that he wants the parties to find a mediated solution. If mediation does not resolve the issue, a court hearing will be held when the courts open. The City has not been incurring many legal fees during the mediation.