LAMPASAS — County Commissioners decided Monday to let voters choose the fate of a tax freeze for seniors age 65 and older. The issue has been emotionally charged for those supporting the idea; however, the county could lose as much as $1.2 million if the tax freeze is implemented.
The freeze would benefit 14.7 percent of the county’s residents who are in the 65-and-older tax bracket, but those opposed are worried about the financial strain it would place on the remaining 85.3 percent of the county’s wage-earning population.
County resident Jim Anderson spoke in support of the freeze, saying he believes the county can replace any lost revenue potential. He also expressed disappointment that a final decision has not been reached.
“First of all, I guess I’m disappointed some of the people we’ve elected to govern the city and county are not able to reach a decision on this,” he said. “I hope you all will … that’s what we elected you for. Secondly, I think it’s a good idea; the idea the younger people will have to bear a greater burden is true, but the younger people will have a few years to improve their economic situation.”
Anderson said seniors are on fixed incomes, and he hopes those who benefit from the freeze would invest in home improvements and spend their money locally. In turn, the money could come back to the county in the form of additional tax revenue.
County Auditor Chris Munn presented three scenarios that compared the county’s revenues in the next seven years, cautioning that the freeze cannot be reversed once it’s put in place.
“As time passes, these numbers really start to add up,” he said. “Again, all these numbers are using a base value, but we won’t really know for sure. We just have to work off the historical data we have available.”
County Judge Wayne Boultinghouse, who opposes the idea, said he talked to officials in surrounding counties that have a tax freeze in place. He expressed concern over the county’s limited income potential compared to other areas.
“For other counties around us that have approved this, if you’ve noted, most of those counties have other sources of income,” Boultinghouse said. “In Burnet County, they don’t just depend on ad valorem taxes on somebody’s house; they have lots of industry, lots of other businesses than Lampasas County does. Bell County has a tremendous source for income, and Lampasas County does not have that. So yes, it’s nice some counties can afford to do that, but I don’t know that Lampasas County can afford to do that without a cut in services somewhere.”
In other business, commissioners chose Johnson Oil Company of Gonzalez to provide the county’s gas and diesel and approved the appointment of Ron Hall to the Lampasas County Historical Commission.