Seniors ask for tax freeze vote
Say they'll use a petition if necessary
By Richard Zowie
Times Guardian Staff Writer
About a dozen senior citizens gathered at the June 3 Comal County Commissioners' Court to voice one central opinion to the county: put Proposition 13 onto a ballot for county voters to decide on.
"We're going to start a petition since we feel there are not enough votes on city council to get this measure onto a ballot," said Wayne Rudolph, who spoke before the Comal County Commissioners' Court at the meeting. Rudolph said, arguing that commissioners' courts in Blanco, Kendall and Kerr Counties have all put the tax freeze onto a ballot without being compelled to by a petition.
"Please, don't force a petition," he added. "If we have to use a petition, we have no doubt we can do it in a hurry."
The proposition, which was passed resoundingly Sept. 13, 2003 (91 percent for and 19 percent against) in a statewide election, allows Texas counties, cities or special districts to limit taxes for homeowners who are either disabled or are age 65 and older. Under Prop 13, for school tax purposes a qualifying homeowner is allowed a $10,000 exemption along with the mandated $15,000 exemption for all residential homesteads under the Texas constitution. Taxing authorities can also allow further exemptions of at least $3,000 to elderly or disabled homeowners. The property taxes, under the proposal, couldn't increase as long as the residences are maintained as homesteads by the owners or their spouses.
If the local government does not put the proposition onto a ballot for residents to vote on, then once a petition signed by a minimum of five percent of the political area's registered voters has been submitted, the political area would then have to put the proposition up to an election to see whether or not local voters want it.
Rudolph questioned why the measure hasn't been put to a referendum yet. He then told the council that if the court decide by July 11 to put the proposition onto a later referendum that he and other seniors would be organizing a petition to put the proposition up for a public vote for September 11, 2004.
Rudolph added that he'd like to see the tax freeze made retroactive to January 1, 2004.
Sigfrid Swenson, another concerned senior citizen, told the court that while the commissioners' court votes in a cost of living pay raise of about five percent "almost every year," the tax freeze is needed since many seniors live on fixed incomes with little cost of living increases from social security. He also pointed out that only about 2597 voters, or five percent of those registered, would have to sign a petition, which would be easy since more than twice that amount voted for the tax freeze referendum last year.
Jan Kennady, Comal County Commissioner Precinct No. 4, said the court has spent time gathering facts about how the tax freeze would affect the county budget in future years.
"I have also spoken with many constituents of all ages to receive the benefit of their opinions since the freeze will be permanent if it is adopted," she said. "I look forward to talking about Proposition 13 in Commissioners' Court [June 10] and hope to see our citizens in attendance during the discussion."
The Comal County Auditor's Office wasn't available for comment.