Public forum held on proposed 5-cent road tax
Polk County Enterprise, May 2007
LIVINGSTON — County Judge John Thompson and county commissioners held a public forum prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting to answer questions on the 5-cent road tax referendum on the May12 ballot.
Voters will decide whether to supplement the existing $4 million road and bridge budget with an additional ad valorem tax of 5 cents per $100 in value, which is expected to generate roughly $1 million a year.
Taxpayers over age 65 who have their property taxes frozen will not be affected by the road tax, should it pass, Thompson said.
All other property owners will have a $3,000 exemption on the value of their homesteads, he added.
“We have been looking at options to addresss the roads,” Thompson said.
State law allows counties to establish a separate road tax of up to 30 cents per $100, Thompson said.
If voters approve the 5 cent rate, it cannot be increased without voter approval, Thompson said.
In response to a question from one resident who attended the forum, Thompson pledged the additional funds would only be used on county roads and bridges, not on Farm to Market Roads, although the statute permits it.
Commissioner Tommy Overstreet said the only instance where road tax funds would be used is to tie a county road to a Farm to Market Road after extensive repairs.
Sydney Murphy asked commissioners if the road tax would be used to meet payroll expenses.
“It will all go to materials,” Thompson said.
Southland Plantation resident Les LeBlanc asked how the funds will be split among the four precincts.
The 5 cent tax will be split using existing formula: Precincts 3 and 4 will get 27 percent each and Precincts 1 and 2 get 23 percent.
Overstreet explained that the additional funds will only provide funds to rehabilitate three miles of roadway per year.
“It costs $70-100,000 to stabilize a mile of road, and that’s provided you’re not doing a lot of culverts,” Overstreet said.
Audience members at Tuesday’s forum expressed a common perception that Polk County property tax rates are higher than surrounding counties, but data published by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts refutes that.
In 2004, Polk County assessed .555 per $100 in value. Surrounding tax rates included: Trinity .5517, San Jacinto .6359, Tyler .5887, Walker .625 and Angelina .5468.
Early voting hours
Early voting for a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution and the 5-cent road tax referendum begins Monday at the main courthouse and annexes in Corrigan and Onalaska, County Clerk Barbara Middleton said.
Voters can cast their ballots between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the main courthouse in Livingston until May 8.
A Saturday session is set for 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 5.
The Onalaska and Corrigan sub-courthouse locations will follow the same schedule, except they will be closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.