Francis Howell campaign committee files suit seeking new tax election

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A campaign committee for a Francis Howell School District tax increase rejected in the Nov. 8 election has asked the courts to order a new vote in April.

In a lawsuit filed last week in St. Charles County Circuit Court, Citizens for Prop Howell contended that inaccurate school district boundary lines used by the county Election Authority “cast doubt on the validity of the election.”

However, authority director Rich Chrismer said his office had determined that fewer than 20 Howell district voters were given ballots that failed to include the Howell tax measure. That’s far below the margin of defeat of more than 3,180 votes.

“We’ve done enough research ... we know it wasn’t widespread,” said Chrismer, who is fighting the lawsuit.

Angela Bullock Gabel, an attorney for the committee, said the group questioned whether “there were widespread systemic problems” with the vote. She said the suit — and information gained during gathering of evidence — would get answers.

“We just want confidence in the system; if the election was run correctly, so be it,” Gabel said. “Right now we have serious questions whether people entitled to vote were able to vote and whether people that shouldn’t have voted did vote.”

The tax increase would have increased the property tax rate in the district by 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Negative votes outnumbered yes votes, 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent. A property tax boost also was turned down by district voters last year.

The committee wants the courts to schedule a re-vote on the proposition at the April 4 local election.

The school board president, Mark Lafata, said the board hadn’t discussed whether to take a position on the lawsuit. The same law firm represents both the board and the campaign committee.

The board has begun considering various additional budget cuts on top of $12 million trimmed in the past two years.