By Lynda Jones
A number of residents living within the Houston County Hospital District are asking how to start a petition for a rollback tax election.
Houston County Tax Assessor/Collector Danette Millican advised that persons should not start collecting signatures until after the HCHD Board of Directors formally adopts the tax rate.
The board held a public hearing on the proposed tax rate 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 of $.15 per $100 valuation.
It will hold another public hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The required number of signatures on a petition in the HCHD calling for a rollback election is "almost 919", explained Millican.
(The Houston County Courier on Sunday, Aug. 30 should have reported this number, not 200.)
This figure is based on 10% of the registered voters living within the Houston County Hospital District boundaries. Millican stated there are 9,182 current voters living within the HCHD, and 10% of them would be 918.2.
Petitioners will have 90 days from date of adoption of the tax rate to collect the required number of qualified signatures.
The Texas State Comptroller's website and Millican have sample petitions.
The Texas State Comptroller's website (http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/proptax/) contains the following information regarding Rollback Tax Election petitions:
If a taxing unit adopts a tax rate that exceeds the rollback tax rate, voters in the taxing unit may petition for an election on the tax increase. A successful election limits the taxing unit's current tax rate to the rollback tax rate.
The rollback process starts after the taxing unit formally adopts the tax rate. If the adopted tax rate exceeds the rollback tax rate, voters may start the petition drive.
A petition must meet specific requirements. It must state that it is intended to require an election to reduce the tax rate for the current year.
If the tax rate adopted by a taxing unit imposes taxes for M&O of less than $5 million (Millican said HCHD's taxes for M&O are under $5 million), the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in that taxing unit are required on a petition. (There are 9,182 registered voters in the HCHD. 10% = 918.2 signatures)
Signatures collected by a paid person are valid.
Voters must submit the petition to the taxing unit's governing body within 90 days of the tax rate adoption.
The rollback petition provided on the Comptroller's website is an example for information purposes only.
The Tax Code does not specify the wording required for a rollback petition, nor does it state the form that the petition must take.
Taxpayers must include several items of information on a rollback petition to assist the governing body in determining validity: date of signature, printed name of voter, birth date and home address.
To be valid, a voter's signature is not required to appear exactly as the voter's name appears on the most recent official voter registration list.
If the taxing unit's governing body is unable to verify a particular voter's signature, it will look to the petition for some reasonable means to verify, such as home address.
Signatures collected more than 180 days before the petition is presented are not valid.
The State Comptroller's website advises that persons who are considering circulation of a rollback petition or a governing body that is considering the validity of a rollback petition should consult legal counsel for guidance.
The State Comptroller's website also addresses determination of a petition's validity, holding an election (if necessary) and acting on election results.
A simple majority is necessary for pasing the rollback election. If the rollback election passes, a taxing unit must reduce it tax rate for the current year to the rollback tax rate.
The responsibility of preparing and mailing new tax bills, if the election passes, falls to the County Tax Assessor-Collector.
For more information, visit http://comptroller.texas.gov/taxinfo/proptax/ and search "Rollback Elections".