Looks like Dickens County is headed for a “tax rollback election”. Enough signatures were accumulated on a petition that was filed in retaliation and hopes of getting Dickens County Commissioners Court to reverse their decision regarding the nursing home in Spur. The petition was filed last Friday afternoon with the Dickens County Clerk’s office. As the petition was circulated for signatures by the time the petition got around to some, like a rumor mill, the rollback election was misunderstood to be a recall election. And those are two different things.
A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office. The majority of states allow recall elections in local jurisdictions, but only 18 states permit recall elections to remove statewide officers (as of 2006).
A rollback election is a way in which voters can get their taxes lowered to the effective rollback rate of a taxing entity. If a taxing unit — other than a school district — adopts a tax rate higher than the calculated rollback rate, voters in the unit can circulate a petition calling for an election to roll back the adopted tax rate. The taxing unit’s governing body determines if the petition is valid and, if so, calls for an election. If a majority of voters vote to rollback the tax rate, then the unit’s rollback rate becomes the tax rate. Those taxpayers that paid their taxes, receive a refund and the delinquency date is extended.
I am concerned that if the election does occur and the rollback rate is passed, it will only hurt our community and county beyond what we have already lost in closing the nursing home. If taxes were lowered, an estimated $207,186 will have to be cut from our county’s budget and what is cut will be up to our county commissioners court. They could pay for it from reserves or they could cut back on money given to services such as fire departments, EMS, or county road services. Or they could cut back on salaries paid to county employees. They will not be cutting their own salaries! So, if that was the hope in getting a rollback election it won’t happen.
The county’s economy will have suffered the loss of 30 salaries when the nursing home ceases operation. The nursing home’s salaries totaled $520,000 a year and much of that money was spent locally. That hurts the business sector of our community, and those are jobs that will not be back which will have a damaging effect on our local economy, communities, and even our schools as people leave to pursue work elsewhere. To roll back taxes, and possibly reduce county services, will not help that.
When three county officials voted to wash their hands of the “nursing home business”, they crippled our economy more than anything has in years. A tax rollback now would just be a bad reaction to a bad decision.