St. Charles County Council members say they’re ready to move forward on local legislation that would freeze property taxes for seniors under a new state law that went into effect Monday, despite the likelihood that the issue will end up in court.

Missouri Senate Bill 190 authorizes counties to freeze property tax rates for seniors, or to have the question put to voters through a petition process.

St. Charles County Council members had a first reading of their bill Monday night. Questions have swirled around eligibility, and whether a county government can legally freeze the property tax rates of other taxing districts. 

The measure introduced Monday would apply to anyone over the age of 62, and would apply to all property taxes in the county, but it has severability clauses written into it that would restrict eligibility to those who receive Social Security retirement benefits, and apply to only property taxes collected by St. Charles County, if courts intervene.

“We know we’re probably going to get sued by somebody we just don't know who that somebody is just yet,” said Councilman Mike Elam.

“I hope that we can get judges to agree if we have to, but if we don’t we’ll do what needs to be done,” St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann told council members Monday. Ehlmann unsuccessfully lobbied Missouri Gov. Mike Parson for a special session to clear up questions about the state legislation. That work will have to wait until January when lawmakers reconvene for a regular session.

Councilman Matt Swanson, who had previously pushed for the body to take action and not wait for the courts to get involved, said the legislation introduced Monday is only a first step.

“This is step one. Be prepared for another year of fights so 365 days before we figure out what’s going on,” he said. 

“We’re taking the lead and we’ll just keep moving forward and see what happens. Hopefully, we get good judges.” 

St. Louis County Council members have already rejected one legislative bid in a party-line vote, as Democrats had concerns that the bill would de-fund public schools and fire protection services. Supporters, like Republican Councilman Ernie Trakas, voted in favor of the idea despite concerns that the state legislation was written in such a way that someone on a fixed income would have the same eligibility as another taxpayer living in a $10 million home.

But the idea has gained new life as Council members are now also being asked to approve tax incentives for Boeing.

The new bill’s sponsor, County Councilman Dennis Hancock, of Fenton, tells Spectrum News he won’t push to perfect the legislation Tuesday. The measure could be the subject of a future Committee of the Whole meeting.