Liberty County Emergency Services District 3 is asking voters to approve a hefty tax increase in the May 5 election. However, they have had to change the ballot language in the middle of early voting because the original ballots were asking for the wrong tax.
The proposition originally read:
“PROPOSITION 1: The adoption of a local sales and use tax for ESD #3 at the rate of 10%. This would increase the Districts sales tax from 1% up to 10%.”
However, the wording is incorrect in a couple areas and contradicts state law. For one, the district is not actually asking for a sales and use tax. The proposition should have instead called for the adoption of an ad valorem tax, which was the district’s intention.
Also, a sales tax of 10 percent would violate state law. Currently, the state has an 8.25 percent cap on sales taxes. However, the state’s tax rate is 6.25 percent, which means local entities can only adopt a sales tax of 2 percent or less, well below the 10 percent sales tax for which the original proposition called.
ESD 3 currently has an ad valorem tax rate of three cents per $100 in valuation. The new ballot language will ask to increase that tax more than three times, to 10 cents per $100 in valuation.
The new ballots were issued Wednesday. However, early voting began Monday, which means that many people have already voted using the old, incorrect ballots. People who have already voted are not eligible to using the correct ballots.
Opponents of the proposition plan to contest the results after the election. Some activists, including the Republican Liberty Caucus of Congressional District 36, are working to defeat the bond ahead of the May 5 election.
“Perhaps instead of always worrying over coming growth, we might suggest local County Government learns to take care of us already here,” said Jeff Leblanc, a local precinct chairman. “Because from the job they are doing now, they surely need not worry about attracting growth, they can’t handle our needs now.”