Stealth Tax Elections – in September

Thanks to a quirk of the Texas Tax Code, there are some tax hikes on the ballot – in September!  We have quite a few tax and bond elections happening down ballot in November, but I caught wind today of two specific tax elections happening on September 1 and September 8 (thanks to WilCo Conservative).

Whether voters are prepared or not, these elections are happening.  Here’s the sample ballot for the Hutto ISD election, and here’s the one for Taylor ISD.  For both, it’s a 13 cent hike above the rollback rate (quite the jump, bringing both districts to a much more expensive bracket for property tax-payers).

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, September 1 is the Saturday during Labor Day weekend.  I imagine someone must have said, there are so many people thinking about voting on a weekend to begin with, and many more who will turn out during a holiday week!    That’s singularly faulty logic, and these elections happen like this because of what Texas law says about when tax ratification elections must take place, but surely another date was available in Hutto?

Section 26.08(b) of the Texas Tax Code states:  “The governing body shall order that the election be held in the school district on a date not less than 30 or more than 90 days after the day on which it adopted the tax rate.”  So, depending on when the tax rates were approved by the school boards, the elections for each had to happen in a certain amount of time.  The Hutto ISD board passed the rate in July, and the Taylor ISD rate passed earlier this month (public information meetings are being held this week).  The uniform election dates found in the Election Code don’t apply to tax ratification elections unless the date falls within the 30-90 day period following adoption of the rate.

There are other school districts holding these elections.  Spring Hill ISD has one scheduled for September 15 and so does Carroll ISD.  Sweetwater ISD held their election today.  There is an excellent resource for information on these elections here, but you can also check your local newspaper and your local school district website for information.

The Tax Code specifies that these elections are necessary if the district intends to exceed their “rollback rate” – a predetermined tax rate above which voters must approve an increase. The law does not explain why the election has to happen so fast, but undoubtedly it has to do with the fact that most tax hikes like this happen in conjunction with budgets, which have to be approved by a certain time each year.  The district would likely need to rework the budget if taxpayers disapprove of a tax hike, hence the timeframe.

Of course, we urge you to dig into the budget and find out why the tax increase is considered necessary, and to know which board members approved the measure.  And we urge you to go to the polls – for Hutto residents, this might mean taking a quick detour on your way to holiday weekend festivities, but it will take just a moment and this is about your taxes, after all.

Election season is fraught with peril.  Be prepared and make sure you vote.  Every chance you get.

 

 

 

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