Ballot education is imperative


HB 140 will be effective for the May 2, 2023, election, which is a special election because it falls in an odd-numbered year. While it is often not a popular ballot choice due to cost, political subdivisions need to be mindful well in advance that ballot forms will look different going forward and that education effort is required to help voters understand the following changes:

  • Most notices and forms now state the estimated amount the levy would collect annually and the voters will see that first. Political subdivisions must help voters understand their needs on a continuing basis, not just at levy time.
  • Election notices and ballot forms will show the tax rate in dollars for each $100,000 of the property’s appraised value (i.e., true value). Keep in mind that many properties have a value less than $100,000. Additionally, property tax is paid on taxable value — 35 percent for a home — not true value. This ballot language change fails to account for variances in how different types of property are taxed and assessed, the application of varying reduction factors to different classes of property, and state subsidies such as the homestead exemption and rollbacks. Bottom line: the levy notices and forms will frequently overstate the property taxes that the taxpayer will pay. Voters will need to be educated on the difference between how property taxes are levied versus paid. 
  • For a renewal or any iteration thereof, the ballot will show the full voted rate of the millage but the cost per $100,000 of appraised value will be based on the estimated effective rate on residential/agricultural property, which will usually be less than the full voted rate. This increases the potential for confusion. In addition, not all real property is taxed at residential/agricultural effective rates and public utility personal property is assessed at different percentages than real property.

This calls for an unparalleled education effort that is informational, verifiable and neutral, but not promotional, if done by any political subdivision placing an issue on the ballot. 

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