Onward Christian taxpayers
The Prop 3 tax freeze proposal on the May 7 ballot might appear to be a sound idea for Grandma and Grandpa, but the in the long run, is the freeze likely will mean hardship for the city's East, West and South Side senior citizens.
The proposition, which City Council unwisely voted January 20 to put on the May ballot, would authorize the City to "establish a limitation on the amount of ad valorem taxes imposed on the homestead of a person who is disabled or is sixty-five years of age or older and receives a residence exemption..." The limitation would set a $65,000 valuation on the home of the City's elderly homeowners, and would freeze that limitation in place, forever.
In mid-April, District 5's Patti Radle spoke candidly with her constituents on the West Side After focusing on numerous ongoing community projects, she pointed out that 92 percent of the elderly-owned homes in her district already pay zero taxes under a $65,000 homestead exemption.
Basically, the tax freeze will benefit wealthy over-65 residents in San Antonio's northern quadrant. Councilmembers Richard Perez and Ron Segovia, who represent Districts 4 and 3 respectively, also notethat about 70 percent of the elderly homeowners who vote in their districts have homes appraised under $65,000.
Radle points out that if Prop 3 is approved by the voters, the city's bond capacity will drop to zero, and it would kill a much-needed bond issue in 2007 for city infrastructure upgrades. "It would be 2011 before we could issue bonds again."
Maybe that's no big deal. Bonds are issued at low-interest rates to finance public works projects, such as repaving streets or installing drainage. And the City can always issue $21 million or so in higher interest certificates of obligation, as it did last week to finance Major League Suckers (Soccer) to occupy the money-hemorrhaging Alamodome. No problem.
"It's an emotional thing," says District 5 resident Rolando Rocha, who attended Radle's State of the District gathering at Palm Heights Community Center. "You want to give your grandparents a break here, but it means less money for the government. That is taking the revenue stream out of the city budget and going forward we will run into a financial crisis. You can't undo it to get revenue streams back up."
Rocha contends that Prop 3 is giving a break only to middle and upper-income homeowners. "It is not as much a benefit as you think because the money has to be replaced. If there is less money, you have to cut services, or raise taxes, and our children will be faced with the City providing less services, such as fire protection, and streets and drainage, or they will be taxed to death to make up the shortfall somehow."
Perez and Segovia contend that the first services to go on the South Side will be the City-funded Meals on Wheels program for seniors, and after-school challenge programs for children.
Prop 3 promises to allow someone to live in a $350,000 home in the Dominion, and not pay more taxes than what a $65,000 valuation would demand.
To be fair, let's also vote to limit the sale of a $350,000 home to $65,000, and see how popular a tax freeze would be.
Councilman Perez says he is "utterly convinced" that Prop 3 is a detriment to District 4. The City will lose about $64 million in revenue by 2016. And he points out that the City portion of ad valorem taxes only amounts to about 21 percent of the total tax bill.
Perez blames the Texas Legislature for ducking the issue on property and other taxes to fund schools and provide essential services such as police and fire protection, street maintenance, and drainage.
Therefore, the Texas Legislature should have to open up the polls, and put an item on the ballot each year to see whether the voters would allow them to convene in Austin, in regular or special session.
And if all you good, conservative, Christian taxpayers are still not convinced that Prop 3 and avoidance of paying taxes will ultimately make your children go live in shantytowns behind the local Wal-Mart Supercenter, consider this Bible passage:
Romans 13:7 - "Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due."
When the final roll is called, those who have avoided paying their fair share of taxes will find out that it was quite the un-Christian thing to do. •
By Michael Cary