|PAC gaining membership|
by Crystal Gottfried, Staff Writer
Opposition to the rollback election in May is rapidly becoming a groundswell of people joining a political action committee, Save Our Services, to get the word out; vote no to rollback taxes.
More than fifty county residents from New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Bulverde, Spring Branch and Garden Ridge met last week to discuss the ways and means to get their message to more than 66,000 registered voters that rolling back the two-cent tax increase would not be a good thing for Comal County or its citizens.
Media reports since last year have outlined many reasons for the two-cent tax increase but now, in preparation for the rollback election slated for May 13, citizens are stepping forward and joining together to help educate taxpayers about the budget and taxation processes, and to provide their support for county officials.
Save Our Services members have gathered information and created fact-sheets to inform voters about the Comal County budget, the differences between County and School taxing districts and even the property appraisal district.
But their biggest message for Comal County voters is Vote No to rollback taxes on May 13.
Here are a few of the facts that PAC members have presented:
Comal County taxes are only 14 to 18 percent of the total yearly tax bill with school, city and other taxes amounting to 82 to 84 percent of the bill;
Comal County's debt is one of the lowest in the state;
A tax rate reduction would have a far-reaching effect on the county's future bond rating, inevitably costing taxpayers more in interest dollars;
Comal County is one of only two counties in the region that gives a 20% homestead exemption for county taxes not for school taxes;
In the last seven years, two catastrophic floods have cost the county more than $7 million dollars after FEMA reimbursements;
Underinsured and indigent healthcare and juvenile probationers housing costs will increase by $401,000 in 2006;
Due to the INS housing federal prisoners elsewhere, the $854,000 in revenue that Comal County received in 2005 will be lost this year;
And, residents 65-years-old and older receive a tax freeze that reduces the county's ad valorem tax revenues by $200,000, in addition to the homestead exemption.
Ad valorem (property) taxes account for only 59 percent of the county budget revenues with 61 percent coming from fines, fees and other sources. County officials must estimate revenues from fines and fees as well as expected expenditures for jail inmates, and indigent defense costs and healthcare. These are unfunded, state mandated county expenditures.
In addition, 8 percent of ad valorem taxes are spent each year on healthcare and pharmacy costs for the poor.
To balance the 2006 Comal County budget in the face of increased costs of insurance, gasoline, and indigent health care and legal defense costs, plus the major loss in county jail revenues, last September county commissioners raised the tax rate from $0.33 to $0.35 per $100 of assessed valuation, resulting in a 12 percent tax rate increase which was 4 percent above the effective tax rate.
State law permits the county to raise taxes only 8 percent per year without facing the threat of a rollback election.
In October, Canyon Lake businessman and publisher, Douglas Kirk, began his rollback effort by a petition that collected 5,894 signatures; 1,298 of those signatures were seniors whose county taxes are frozen.
PAC members feel county officials have done an excellent job of managing county finances and controlling spending in the last several years and think that commissioners made many difficult choices before raising the tax rate.
Now, they are willing to commit their time and resources to ensuring that voters have the factual information they need to make the right choice for Comal County's future.
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