Citizens of Brewster County are pushing to rollback a tax increase recently approved by county commissioners.
The county’s purposed tax rate change on table .387 per $100 of taxable value to .399 per $100 of taxable value. The petition would like to see a reduction of the county’s budgeted revenue cut down to eight percent.
KRTS spoke with volunteers of the petition movement, Terry and Suzi Ervin of Terlingua Ranch, at the Big Bend Motor Lodge Café in Terlingua on Tuesday.
“I’ll tell you what really got me started: when we got our tax appraisal notice of a 497 percent increase in the value of our property,” Mr. Ervin says. “See, we live in an old 1967 12-by-60 mobile home with a roof over it. Nothing fancy at all. And I have a homestead exemption and I’m over 70, so my taxes shouldn’t increase anymore… They don’t need to put this burden on the taxpayers.”
The “they” Mr. Ervin referred to is the Brewster County commissioner’s court, which is drawing a lot of ire from those involved in this petition movement.
The woman spearheading the petition is Julianne Braun, also from Terlingua Ranch. Texas state law says if 10 percent of the county’s registered voters sign the rollback petition, then a special election must be held.
“I currently have 711 signatures in my possession,” she says. “And with the ones people have reported to me, we’re almost at our goal of 800.”
There must be at least 705 signatures of registered voters verified by the county before a special election can move forward.
Killingsworth confirms the petitioners do have a legal standing to challenge the tax increase – since the county wrongly calculated what’s known as a “rollback rate” – that’s the maximum tax increase commissioners can legally approve without putting the issue before voters.
“The petition is not to amend the budget,” says Brewster County Judge Kathy Killingsworth. “The petition only deals with the tax rate and how that happened is our tax assessor/collector made a mistake calculating the rollback rate.”
She didn’t feel the current tax rate would make much of an impact on citizens.
“It’s two cents,” she says. “The difference in the two cents is actually in our road and bridge budget, that’s where the other two cents is. So, if you want good county roads then I would ask the voters to support the county’s budget.”
Judge Killingsworth says a special election would cost the county $10,000, adding that Brewster County’s tax rate is one of the lowest, “in the low 18th percentile throughout the state and well below its neighbor’s tax rates.”
On October 14, the petition organizers plan to deliver their documents to Brewster County Commissioner’s Court for verification.