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County proposes reduced tax rate

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Caldwell County Commissioners on Monday discussed lowering the proposed tax for the upcoming fiscal year to avoid the possibility of citizens being able to petition for an election to lower the rate.
Previously, the proposed tax rate fell at approximately 77 cents per $100 evaluation, making it roughly 3 cents more than the rollback tax rate of 74 cents per $100 evaluation.
When a taxing entity other than a school district adopts a tax rate that exceeds the rollback tax rate, voters in the taxing area may petition for an election on the tax increase. A successful election would then reduce the entity’s tax rate back to the rollback tax rate.
Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said the proposed decrease was both an effort to avoid a potential rollback election and an effort to offset decreases in revenue next year expected from the passage of Texas Senate Bill 2 — a bill that will go into effect next year designed to limit property tax growth.
Haden noted the proposed tax rate decrease will result in about a $600,000 reduction in revenue. He said the money has already been offset in the budget, mostly by transferring funding from the county’s contingency fund. A piece of heavy equipment previously allotted to the county’s road crew has also been scrapped, he said.
County commissioners are set to vote to approve the budget and tax rate on Sept. 23.
In other business, board members from the Martindale Community Library were on hand on Monday to propose a plan that could eventually allow residents to vote on whether they wanted to turn the library into a library district.
Legislation passed in 1997 allows for the formation of library taxing districts that allow voters to choose to dedicate a portion of their sales tax revenue to support library services.
Currently, the library receives a portion of its funding through a contract with the city of Martindale, though that contract only extends through the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
According to Library Director Carol Deviney, the contract with the city is especially important to the library because it allows it to receive accreditation from the state, meaning it can apply for grants, become a part of the library database and even borrow books from other municipal libraries, eliminating the need for its residents to drive to San Marcos or Lockhart.
Library board member Jane Lathom noted Monday that becoming a library district would still allow the library to receive state accreditation, eliminating the need to have a contract with the city.
“We decided the best route was to disassociate ourselves [from the city] and become a library district,” said Lathom, noting the next step in the process would be bringing a petition before commissioners for approval before eventually obtaining the required amount of signatures on the petition needed to place the item on the 2020 ballot for voter consideration.
Caldwell County Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Theriot applauded the initiative, saying he’d support it moving forward.
“I’ve spent some time with the library folks and I’m very much in support of your efforts,” said Theriot. “I hope you guys are successful and that it’s a model we can spread to other parts of county.”
To read more, see this week’s edition of the Lockhart Post-Register.

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