|Save Our Services moving forward|
by Crystal Gottfried, Staff Writer
Comal County Citizens that belong to the political action committee, Save Our Services, are on a roll; moving forward to give the county taxpayers the information they could use to make an informed vote in the upcoming tax roll-back election.
For all but one, this year's county budgeting process may be a mystery.
Although public hearings have been held each year at Commissioner's Court before the budget is adopted, Lisa Roper was the only person who attended this year's public hearings.
"I decided to join the Save Our Services committee because I was there when Commissioners Court was putting together the budget," Roper told the Times Guardian. "I saw how they struggled with the county's departments to cut costs. I was there when Sheriff Holder and his deputies asked for more money due to their high risk jobs and compared to what New Braunfels police officers are paid."
"Col. Roper pays a lot in taxes to this county and we stand strong against over taxation," she said. "I will do what ever we have to do to protect our county services. I will work hard against the tax rollback. I think it is for all the wrong reasons."
Most of the newer members of the PAC think that people in the county did not understand the budget, starting from the property appraisal process.
Comal County has nothing to do with setting the appraisal values on property in the county.
Scott Watson, another member of the PAC sits on the appraisal board of directors.
"I joined the Save Our Services committee because I wanted to get the truth about county taxes and the budgeting process," he said. "I'm hoping that we [the committee] can accomplish getting the truth and facts to everyone because voters need to be informed about the issues related to the tax increase, so they are not just voting because of their emotions."
Starr Carey, a professor of Marketing at Our Lady of the Lake University, was one of the first members of Save Our Services.
"We have county employees being paid below the poverty level," he said. "We want the response time of a sheriff's call to be immediate. I joined the PAC because I think that if Comal County citizens want good public servants who are serving us well, we need to be willing to pay the costs."
The PAC consists of many members of the Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, Bulverde, Spring Branch, and Garden Ridge communities; all of which are in Comal County.
Al Marin of Spring Branch volunteered to construct a website for Save Our Services which can be seen at http://www.comalcountysos.com.
"I realize the importance of maintaining our county services, so I joined the PAC," he said. "I understand that the tax roll-back will only affect my county taxes, and that amounts to something less than $0.95 to $2.95.
"On the other hand, the tax roll-back will be very costly to all county citizens later on, especially with the county's bond status."
The bond rating of any governmental agency could be decided based on the entity's ability to repay the bonds, their tax rates and valuations, in additional to the county's consistency in their economic situation.
Marin is hoping that Save Our Services can help educate the public.
"I'd like to eradicate the fraudulent actions of those who petitioned for the tax roll-back in the first place," he added.
Marin thinks that the truth about the issues concerning the tax roll-back "should be told to the voters of this community because the man who started the petition for the roll-back is doing a disservice to all the citizens in order to evolve a personal agenda."
Commissioners increased the tax rate two cents last September in order to balance the 2006 Comal County budget in the face of increased costs of insurance, gasoline, and indigent health care and legal defense costs, in addition to a major loss in the county jail's revenues.
The increase resulted in a 12 percent tax rate increase which was 4 percent above the effective tax rate. The effective tax rate is the amount that allows the county to collect the same amount of taxes as in the previous year. 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.
PAC members feel that Comal County officials have done an outstanding 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.
Susan Patterson, J.D. is a Comal County Treasurer as well as a certified investment officer, who believes that commissioners made a very tough choice when adopting the two cent tax increase.
"I am privileged to have been elected to serve in our Comal County government and have seen firsthand the absolute need for this request of a very conservative amount of additional tax money," she said. "Commissioners' Court is not allowing for luxuries in their budget, but rather for a baseline amount needed to continue serving a county that is growing extremely fast."
"The county commissioners' court has very minimally increased taxes over the past several years, and now, due to expenditure mandates that are not within their control but forced to be paid from their budget, they ask for this conservative amount of support from taxpayers who will directly benefit."
Patterson is hoping that the PAC can accomplish the goals of educating the public about what the Comal County government does for them that is worth the payment of taxpayers' monies.
"Everyone is tired of paying more in taxes and seemingly receiving less, but look at where expenditures of your actual tax monies go," said Patterson. "The vast majority of the money is paid for school taxes which are on the increase again due to our growth in residential development. There are also a large amount of monies paid to city taxes (if you are in one of our counties city limits)."
Patterson asks that taxpayers compare and contrast those two tax payments with the pennies paid to county government.
"Perhaps people will note that everyone in the county benefits from roads, bridges, law enforcement, legal process, and health care," she said. "County government is the best value you have, and the county leaders desperately need your support in this conservative request for a tax increase."
The tax roll-back election is scheduled for May 13.
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