by JC Dufresne
for the “Progressive Views” column, Boerne Star, April 22, 2022
Not everyone realizes that there are two separate elections in May. There’s the runoff for Congress and other partisan offices on May 24 and the less well-known Constitutional Amendment election on May 7. There are two propositions on the May 7 ballot; both are related to property taxes.
Proposition 1 says, “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for the reduction of the amount of a limitation on the total amount of ad valorem taxes that may be imposed for general elementary and secondary public school purposes on the resident homestead of a person who is elderly or disabled to reflect any statutory reduction from the preceding tax year in the maximum compressed rate of maintenance and operations taxes imposed for those purposes on a homestead.”
Yes, it is widely agreed that the ballot language sounds like gibberish; even lawyers have to ask experts what it means. Those experts will refer you back to the actual legislation that generated the proposition and the Texas Constitution and explain that if passed it would reduce property taxes for elderly and disabled Texans by decreasing the amount they pay to public schools, which is generally the largest part of a homeowner’s tax bill. The state is responsible for making up the reduced revenue for school districts. This amendment will increase the state’s share of public school funding by more than $744 million from 2024 to 2026.
The reason that the Texas Legislature passed this amendment by a wide bipartisan margin is that in 2019, they passed a law which provided a property tax reduction to many homeowners but failed to include disabled or elderly homeowners because under the Texas Constitution, their tax rate is frozen. Proposition 1 would amend the Constitution to allow disabled and elderly homeowners to receive the benefits from the 2019 property tax reduction that other homeowners received and freeze their tax rate at a lower rate.
The language of Proposition 2 is much more straightforward and says, “The constitutional amendment increasing the amount of the residence homestead exemption from ad valorem taxes for public school purposes from $25,000 to $40,000.”
If passed by Texas voters, Proposition 2 would raise Texas’ homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000 for school district property taxes, saving an average homeowner around $180 on their annual property tax bill. The amendment requires the state of Texas to make up $600 million annual decrease in school district revenue.
Opponents of these propositions make the argument that they don’t fix the real problem which is that our public schools are largely funded by property taxes. While that’s true, these propositions do make the issue slightly less onerous and swing the pendulum back toward the state with regard to the percentage of funding provided by the state versus local property taxes. For the last decade or so, in most districts, the local portion has steadily increased so in that sense these propositions are a welcome reversal. You can find more information on both propositions, including arguments for and against, on the non-partisan www.vote411.org website.
This election includes a logistical challenge for Boerne ISD (BISD) residents who live in Bexar or Comal Counties. Also on the ballot are a school board race (BISD Place 4) and a BISD bond proposal. This is a separate election from the Constitutional Amendment election. BISD residents who live in Comal or Bexar Counties need to vote in both elections being held. (For Kendall residents, both elections appear on the same ballot.) Bexar/Comal BISD residents will need to vote at Van Raub Elementary (open during early voting and on Election Day) for the BISD race/bond issue, and also at a separate Bexar County location for the two state Constitutional Amendments. We recommend these voters cast their ballots during early voting, to allow more time to visit two separate voting sites and avoid having to visit two polling locations on Election Day. If you have questions or need further information, call the Kendall County Elections office at 830-331-8701 or the Bexar County Elections office at 210-335-8683.
Early voting runs from Monday, April 25 through Tuesday, May 3 (including Saturday, April 30) at the Kendall County Courthouse Annex. Van Raub Elementary is open for early voting and on Election Day for BISD residents who live in Bexar and Comal Counties ONLY. On Election Day, Kendall County voters can vote at any one of eight polling locations. To find a list, visit the Kendall County Elections website.
JC Dufresne is a local Democrat. Laura Bray also contributed to this column.