Tax Rollback Special Election

by Crystal Gottfried, Staff Writer

A tax rollback effort begun last December failed to generate enough votes in the special election last Saturday to force the county to make a tax refund.

In a very close test of taxpayer support for Comal County commissioners and officials, voters defeated the rollback with 3,257 votes against the rollback compared to 3,034 who favored getting a tax refund that for many would have been less than $9.00.

After commissioners adopted a 2-cent tax increase last September to balance the general fund budget for 2006, Canyon Lake Publisher Douglas Kirk initiated a tax rollback petition to force the county to refund the 4.2 percent or 9/10 of one cent that went over the state's rollback rate of 8 percent.

Commissioners used reserve funds to take care of budget shortfalls because of two major floods in the past to save taxpayers from a tax increase during those years. But the county lost two sources of major county revenues in 2005 with the relocation of INS prisoners from the county jail and the over 65 tax freeze.

Proponents of rolling back the taxes received help with their effort from a taxpayers' lobbying group, Americans for Prosperity, from Austin and Houston, who tried to make Comal County an example of freewheeling and big government spending.

Opponents to the tax rollback formed a political action committee, Save Our Services, that focused their attention on getting information about the county's budgeting process circulated to community groups and individuals throughout the county.

According to news reports Saturday night, Judge Danny Scheel said that he was grateful that a majority of voters saw through the campaign messages touted by rollback proponents and appreciated the support of county citizens who would like to see the county move forward with providing the services most citizens expect from this conservative commissioner's court.

Scheel said that he thinks folks who voted for the rollback were misled and misinformed by opponents and other outside political interests who really wanted to take advantage of the rollback to further their own political agendas in Austin.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jan Kennady also expressed her gratitude to voters who cast ballots to defeat the rollback and invited them to come to the courthouse this summer to see how commissioners administer tax revenues for the county. She also thanked the members of Save Our Services "who worked so hard and raised money to oppose this effort; we couldn't have done it without them."

Kirk acknowledged the defeat Saturday with criticism for the way the county conducted the election and expressed his derision for taxpayers who voted against the rollback. However, Kirk did express his appreciation for all "the wonderful people who worked very hard" for the rollback effort.

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