Sunday, August 01, 2010

Judge Says MSD Violated Hancock Amendment; Trash Program is Similar

A Missouri Circuit Court judge in Lincoln County has ruled against MSD in a class action case, which was originally filed two years ago by a doctor from Chesterfield, who challenged the legality of the utility in charging its customers for stormwater control service. Judge Dan Dildine ruled that the charge was a tax instead of a fee, and that MSD violated the Hancock Amendment of the Missouri constitution, which requires voter approval for any new tax. The judge further stated in his 37 page opinion that MSD offered no new services, just a new way to charge for the service. The service at issue is charging customers for each 100 feet of area impervious to water, which brought in $41.48 million in revenue and accounted for 22% of the district’s opperating budget for the fiscal year just ended on June 30.

At the trial, expert witnesses for the plaintiffs in the fields of hydrology and hydraulics testified that there is no direct correlation between impervious area and runoff, and further testified that an impervious area is among many factors that influence runoff, including slope, storage capacity and the very makeup of the soil found on most properties in St. Louis, which allows for little water penetration. MSD offered no objection to the experts’ testimony.

In his written opinion, Jude Dildane wrote: "The testimony of MSD's witnesses demonstrates that its Stormwater User Charge bears no relation to the level of services it actually provides to an individual property owner, but rather is simply a way of apportioning its total stormwater costs amongst its fee payers."

There will be a second phase of the trial to assess damages against MSD, but no date has been set. In the interim, MSD can still charge the 14 cents for each 100 feet of area impervious to water.

According to district spokesman, Lance LeComb, MSD may appeal the decision. Another option is that MSD could ask voters to approve the stormwater charge or reinstate a property tax that was eliminated when the charge took effect on March 1, 2008.

There will be future updates on this issue as new developments arise, since this is an issue that has a direct impact on all St. Louis County residents.

More information at:


  1. Anonymous10:31 AM

    The Hancock Amendment is the reason this State of Missouri is at, or near the bottom of all 50 states. MSD is required by federal mandate to upgrade and improve on thier processes. Because of Hancock, voters turn down increaces, so MSD applies anyway. They go to court and the courts overturn because of Hancock. But, because they are under federal mandate, soon the highest courts will step in and force the increases so Missouri can comply. So, after we spend years back and forth in the court system, and waste tons of money on legal issues, and non on clean water and public works systems, the courts will set a tax rate to complete. In the mean time, the State of Missouri sinks to a new low.
    Get rid of Hancock, it is dragging us down.

  2. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Until we are up to our ears in both trash and sewage, we will not address the importance of these issues.

    Missouri is near to be the most backwards state in the union.

  3. Anonymous11:07 AM

    I feel the up side of the Hancock Amendment offsets the minuses. Just a gut feel.

  4. Anonymous5:36 PM

    The Hancock sure seemed right at the time. But over the past twenty plus years, it has taken its toll on Missouri. We have dropped considerably in states ranking, and have lost more large and mid sized business than are moving in. The tight spending and ultra conservative basis is beginning to hurt.

    Besides, on the Federal mandate issues, if tax payers continue to refuse to fund things, the court will set the new rate.

    I just think the state has to get back into a competitive nature and compete for the jobs of the future, and we will need the infrastructure to compete.

  5. Anonymous10:30 AM

    I think the people of Missouri have supported well run government programs by approving taxes when a good case is made for them. MSD has a poor record of performance, Metrolink had a poor record of performance. It isn't that they don't have the funds they are not cost effective with those funds. St. Louis public schools at least until the early 2000's was spending about the same per student as the Parkway districts. Why is the success rate so different? MSD went to a lot of people and said you owe me money every month. The people had no input and no voice. MSD talks a good game but we never see the results. The voters gave Metrolink more money recently. I voted against it because Metrolink was vague about what we would get out of the program. I for one feel that rapid transit is way over due in St. Louis. There should be Metro stations and lots at every major highway intersection on the 270/255 beltway. Unfortunately Metrolink has not functioned very well. Their contruction projects have not been well managed and I think the voters have a right to voice their concern through their right to vote. The Handcock Amendment is not our problem. Our leaders and their ineptitude is our problem. Our bang for the buck is weak at best. When I spend my money I want good value not shoddy workmenship. I work too hard for my money to waste it on bad workmenship.