Texas voters have the opportunity today to correct what some have described as an oversight in legislation approved last year that mandated property tax ceilings on public school taxes.
When the 79th Legislature passed school property tax cuts in its third called session in 2006, elderly and disabled Texans whose school property taxes were already frozen did not receive a corresponding reduction in their school property taxes, according to a summary of the proposal prepared by The League of Women Voters of Texas. In order for elderly and disabled Texans to receive a proportional reduction in school property taxes for two years, an allowance for it must be made within the Texas Constitution.
Early this year, the Texas Legislature approved a bill ordering today’s statewide election.
“We’ve had several calls from voters wondering if this is one of those amendments where if you vote for it, you’re really voting against it,” Suzy Young, Brown County elections administrator, said. “That’s not the case. If you’re in favor of this, you vote for it.”
Under current Texas law, homeowners who are age 65 or older, or who have a disability, are eligible to receive a ceiling on the amount of public school ad valorem taxes — school property taxes — they will owe on their residence homestead based on the amount they owned the year they qualified for the ceiling.
The constitutional amendment would provide the reduction for the 2006 and 2007 tax years, The League of Women Voters said. The amendment, if approved, would expire Jan. 1, 2009. Any future school tax reductions after the 2007 year would require another constitutional amendment.
Arguments in favor of the amendment provided by the The League of Women Voters are as follows:
Since other taxpayers were granted this reduction in school taxes by the state legislature, it’s only fair that those over 65 and the disabled receive the same proportionate reduction. Many elderly and disabled citizens are on low and/or fixed
incomes and need lower taxes.
Arguments against the amendment listed are as follows:
The intention of the 2006 bill was to reduce taxes for those Texans whose property values have had large hikes in recent years. Seniors and the disabled had their taxes frozen so that they did not experience the same rise in taxes as others, and therefore they should not receive another discount. Seniors and the disabled already get a significant tax break by having the amount of their school taxes frozen they year qualify for this ceiling, and therefore should not receive additional reductions on their school taxes.
The amendment is the only item on the statewide ballot today. Because this election is being held on an election day usually reserved for local elections, some voters may find themselves going to different locations to vote in both this election and local municipal or school board races. A list of those locations is provided in today’s Bulletin.