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Sample Ballot Form

The statute relating to fire protection districts says at RSMo §321.120 that the form of ballots shall be as follows:

Shall there be incorporated a fire protection district?

Yes __________

No___________

However you should not blindly follow this form. In 1980 the voters of Missouri adopted an amendment to the constitution known as the Hancock Amendment. That amendment requires voter approval of each tax increase or new form of taxation.

The Hancock amendment may mean that any fire protection district that wants to have a tax will have to put up to the voters a second proposition relating to the maximum tax levy. The form of that question might be as follows:

Shall the ___________________Fire Protection

District have authority to impose an ad valorem

property tax at the rate of_______per $100

assessed valuation?

Yes____________

No____________

The submission of two questions to the voters can result in the voters agreeing to form the district, but refusing to pay the taxes necessary to operate the district. Similarly they could approve the tax but disapprove of the district. This has led to some fire protection districts to combine the questions into a single one to be voted upon at one time, or to otherwise attempt to simplify the issues for the voters.

A researcher at the University of Missouri conducted a study in 1986 of ways various fire protection districts had reacted to the Hancock Amendment and reported that of the 34 districts studied, approximately 16 had presented only the first question to the voters and had ignored the Hancock Amendment. For these districts the legality of subsequent taxes is doubtful. The best alternative is to present voters with two separate ballot issues and with two separate boxes for yes and no. Some FPD’s had presented two questions with one set of boxes, and others had combined the two questions into a single proposition with a single set of boxes for voting yes or no.

The proper way how to do this has not been litigated up to the appellate courts. I am aware of one circuit court decision that says having a combined question with only one set of boxes is improper.

It seems to me that the safest way to avoid litigation would be to choose to have two questions and two sets of boxes.