Rollback petition succeeds

County to hold election on May 13

by Crystal Gottfried and Kevin Force

After 20 days of review, Comal County Comissioners were forced to declare a petition calling for a tax roll back valid on Tuesday and have set an election date for Saturday, May 13.

The petition, filed by local newspaper publisher Douglas Kirk on Dec. 14, needed 4,533 signatures from registered voters from within the county. In a special meeting on Tuesday, the Commissioners Court deemed the petition valid.

The issue arose when the county approved a 2-cent increase in the county property tax rate this year to cover the general fund budget.

State law allows voters to petition for an election to roll back the new tax rate if the increase is more than 8 percent. Petitioners claimed that the new tax rate was an increase of 14 percent, but Commissioner Jay Millikin said it was in fact a 12.5 percent increase.

County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherman Krause reviewed the petition along with county attorneys and outside attorneys, determining that the petition met the requirements to be held valid.

Commissioner Jack Dawson said that while 1900 of the signatures did not meet state standards, lacking either a correct address or containing a mistake, a Texas Supreme Court ruling several years ago provided that the signatures would be allowed.

Commissioner Jan Kennady made a motion to adopt a resolution that finds the petition valid. All of the commissioners voted to accept the motion except for Greg Parker.

Millikin voted to accept the petition, but added a comment that the legal review done outside the courthouse raised some questions regarding the validity of the petition based on some confusing wording over whether it was for the 2005 or 2006 budget.

"I just point this out to make sure that we are all concerned with the reality of the issue," Millikin said.

The second Saturday in May is a uniform election date and was chosen by the court.

Parker advised the court that they were not obligated to set a date for the special election today, however Judge Danny Scheel wanted to set the date.

Kennady pointed out to the court that the special election cannot be held in March because that is the time of the primary election. State law prohibits the two being held in conjunction with each other.

Despite the fact that the issue over the roll back election has been widely debated in the months leading up to Tuesday's special meeting, only two citizens were in attendance for the announcement. Kirk was not present.

Scheel estimated that a rollback election will cost taxpayers approximately $20,000 to conduct, and those costs would rise if the rollback passes.

If the rollback is passed, the county will be forced to return $529,791 to Comal County taxpayers. That translates into a check for $9.62 for a taxpayer whose property is worth $100,000.

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