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What propositions are on Nov. 2 ballot?

By Jo Lee Ferguson answerline@news-journal.com
Oct. 13, 2010 at 6 p.m.


<strong>QUESTION</strong>: Does either Proposition 2 or Proposition 3 on the Nov. 2 ballot create a new tax? I have received e-mails stating "on November 3, there will be Propositions 1, 2, and 3 allowing the state of Texas to start taxing residential homeowners." So if you own a home, and these laws are passed, you will be taxed by the state.

Besides having the incorrect date for voting, are these statements true?

<strong>ANSWER</strong>: This is a good example of why we should approach the random e-mails that make it to our inboxes with a big question mark.

There are no statewide propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot. Texas voted on these propositions in 2009, and that's why the date in this e-mail was wrong if you're living in 2010. Voters approved the propositions, which did not create state property taxes as the e-mail claimed.

Randall Dillard, spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State's office, said this e-mail circulated before the 2009 election, and it's apparently still around.

"It was inaccurate in 2009, and it's inaccurate for the November 2010 election as well," he said. "It's unfortunate because those types of things are very hard to track down."

If you want accurate information about the upcoming election, he suggested you visit <a href= "http://www.votexas.org">www.votexas.org</a>.

<strong>Q</strong>: I've noticed several water districts around this area, such as Chalk Hill, are titled "special utility districts." What is the meaning of that compared to any other district?

<strong>A</strong>: It's a matter of the types of service they're allowed to offer, how they generate revenue to provide those services and other factors as dictated by state law. To help answer this question, I looked to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's website, state law and someone who knows firsthand what the differences are - Ruth Flanagan, general manager and cofounder of the Chalk Hill Special Utility District. Chalk Hill started off as a water supply corporation, but voters later changed it to a special utility district. Flanagan said that change meant the organization doesn't have to pay sales taxes if it buys equipment, for instance.

Texas has many types of districts to provide residential services, but the commission on environmental quality says the most common are municipal utility districts, water control and improvement districts, special utility districts and river authorities. The first three are governed by sections within the Texas Water Code, while river authorities are among the "special law" districts that are created by separate enabling legislation.

A special utility district, Flanagan said, cannot collect taxes, compared with a municipal utility district which can. Chalk Hill's income is from water sales.

Special utility districts can provide water, wastewater and firefighting services, while a municipal utility district can also provide drainage and garbage services, as well as recreational facilities.

A water control and improvement district also can charge taxes and fees as part of providing services that might include improving rivers and creeks for the purposes of navigation or irrigation; building and maintaining pools and lakes, for instance, for irrigation and drainage; and other services.

River authorities, on the other hand, generally can't collect property taxes but earn money by selling water or generating electricity.

<strong>Q</strong>: When did Sandifer Street become Sandefur Street? Sandifer runs east-west one block north of Marshall Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets. I've been here for 50 years, and it has always been spelled Sandifer.

<strong>A</strong>: The "Sandifer" spelling was incorrect, and the city put up a new street sign with the correct spelling, according to information city spokesman Shawn Hara provided me. (He got his information from Justin Cure, the city's Geographic Information System Manager.)

"The city was informed by the Sandefur family that the old sign was incorrect. The street was named after a relative," Hara said. "The GIS department confirmed this by looking at the original plat. At some point over time, the name was incorrectly changed."

E-mail questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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