Opposition to tax rollback forms PAC

by Crystal Gottfried, Staff Writer

Concern about the consequences of a rollback election recently led to the formation of a political action committee whose major objective is to inform taxpayers about the issues that comprise the 2006 Comal County budget and that led to a 2-cent tax increase to fund it.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jan Kennady was approached by so many people after the announcement that a rollback election would take place on May 13 that she helped them form the committee, but the citizens will spearhead their informational effort through fliers, public forums or personal contact.

"Save Our Services," will have its first meeting on Feb. 9, to figure out a way to get the word out about possible service cuts and other effects of the rollback election.

"The way I feel about it is, if in the end the rollback is successful, I want to feel confident that we in the county have done everything possible to let the voters know what's at stake," Kennady said.

"People need to be aware that we've spent over $7 million for two floods and that the county lost $750,000 in revenues that we received from the INS for our jail. That, and the increased costs of unfunded state mandates like indigent health care and indigent legal defense, led to the 2-cent tax increase this year," she added.

Kennady hopes that the PAC can educate taxpayers about the factors that commissioners considered when creating the county budget and the effects that the rollback election, if it is successful, will have on county services.

"The county would have to cut more than $600,000 from the county budget, and that could significantly reduce some essential services," she said. "The county also would not be able to rebuild its reserves and that could negatively affect its bond rating."

Kennady said that Comal County taxes are in the lowest 5 percent of the 254 counties in Texas and that they account for only 17 percent of the yearly tax bill.

"I've been contacted by many people who signed the petition and now regret it," she said. "In fact 1,288 people who signed the petition were 65 years old or over; the tax increase and the rollback election doesn't affect any taxpayers who are 65 or over.

"I've also been contacted by many people who said they signed the petition because they were tired of their appraised property values going up," said Kennady. "The PAC would try to get people to understand that the county does not have anything to do with property values; that's decided by the comptroller's office."

"Comal County is regarded as a progressive county, and many other counties have great respect for the work that has been accomplished here," said Kennady. "So, people came to me and said, what can we do? We need to stop this rollback."

Canyon Lake businessman and newspaper publisher Douglas Kirk organized the rollback petition campaign last October, a month after county commissioners adopted a $27.5 million budget and set a new tax rate of 35.3747 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which is a 2-cent increase over last year's rate.

The new tax rate is 12.5 percent above the effective tax rate (the amount that allows the county to collect the same amount of taxes as in the previous year), and is 4.5 percent above the state-set rollback rate of 8 percent.

"Save Our Services" already has 25 people committed to organizing the committee, including several people who signed the rollback petition. Other people are invited to help this committee get the word out.

Kennady encourages Comal County advocates to contact her for more information about how they can lend a hand in this effort. She can be reached during the evenings at (830) 708-0681.

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