GONZALES — It was a light crowd at last week's Gonzales city council meeting that saw a couple of potentially big changes come down the municipal pipeline. One of them was the decision to hold a tax rollback election on March 16.
Per state law, residents of a government entity can petition to have their taxes lowered if the percentage of taxes to be collected reaches a certain point. That point is called the “rollback rate” and exceeding that mark can trigger a special election if enough registered voters in the taxing entity sign a petition.
In September, a local group calling themselves the Gonzales Taxpayers Association sued the City of Gonzales over their rollback rate, which was set at $0.4639 cents per $100 of property valuation. Their argument was that the city's calculations were off, artificially inflating it over the proposed tax rate of $0.3050 cents per $100 of property valuation.
The judge ultimately sided with the Gonzales Taxpayers Association and ordered both sides to come to a new number for the rollback rate. That new number was $0.2248, well under the $0.3050 tax rate that could trigger an election.
A rollback petition can only succeed with a proper amount of signatures required under city law. In Gonzales' case, a petition needs 10 percent of registered city voters to succeed, which is 366. The petition that was submitted to the city secretary on Dec. 21 had 571 signatures, of which 492 were ruled as valid, paving the way for an election.
Last Thursday, city council validated the petition set the rollback election date. The ballot will ask voters to vote for or against “reducing the tax rate in the City of Gonzales for the current year from $0.3050 to 0.2248.”
The other change that could affect Gonzales residents were proposals to the city's charter, or constitution. Every few years a committee of citizens are rounded up to review the charter and propose any changes that they feel would better serve current times. A few items were discussed with the option for council to put them up for a vote on May 4.
Among charter change considerations were tweaks to the percentage of voters needed to petition for a vote, the possibility of adding two at-large seats to council, and allowing persons with a criminal background to run for office.
Mayor Connie Kacir thanked the charter review committee for their work and council voted to accept the proposed amendments. The charter amendment election will be called at the Feb. 14 city council meeting and the Inquirer will publish an analysis of all points up for consideration.