BELLEVILLE – Commissioners of Metro East Sanitary District exceeded their authority when they created a special service area in St. Clair County, associate judge Julie Katz ruled on May 4.
Katz granted judgment against the sewer district, declaring its establishment of a special service area void, invalid and unenforceable.
She wrote that the law limits special service areas to counties and municipalities, and she rejected the district’s claim that it qualified as a municipality.
The special area would have taxed properties at 43 cents per $100 in Caseyville, Fairmont City, Brooklyn, Washington Park, and part of East St. Louis.
The average home would have paid $104.46 in Caseyville, $89.40 in Fairmont City, $76.80 in East St. Louis, $62.43 in Washington Park, and $45.04 in Brooklyn.
The special area would not have included Madison and Venice, the only Madison County communities in the sewer district.
Sewer district commissioners expected the service area to raise about $5 million a year for repairs along the Landsdowne drainage channel and the Cahokia canal.
They held a public hearing last September, and adopted an ordinance in December.
On April 24, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly sued the sewer district.
County counsel Garrett Hoerner wrote, “Public entities have no taxing power except that which is delegated to them by the legislature.
“The obligation of citizens to pay taxes is purely a statutory creation, and taxes can be levied, assessed and collected only in the manner expressly spelled out by statute.”
Katz granted an early hearing, and Katz set it May 1.
On April 30, Madison County state’s attorney Tom Gibbons filed a similar suit against the district in Madison County circuit court.
In Katz’s court, sewer district counsel James Craney moved to stay the proceedings.
He proposed to consolidate Kelly’s suit with Gibbons’s suit in Madison County. He said there was a fairly substantial project that had to be funded.
Craney tried to find authority for the service area in a series of laws starting more than 100 years ago, but he didn’t convince Katz.
She denied consolidation and rejected the sewer district’s ordinance.
Gibbons’s suit remained pending in Madison County as of May 8. A hearing in that case has been set May 10.