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Scare tactics mount as vote set

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - With officials continuing to release dire predictions, the Ellis County tax-rollback will go to a vote of the people March 3.

The tax-rollback petition was officially approved and an election date set at a special Jan 10 meeting of the Ellis County Commissioners Court.

'Mrs. (Jane) Anderson has certified 6,001 registered voters' signatures,' County Judge Al Cornelius (R) said of the county's top election official. 'That number of 6,001 voters is sufficient for the number that is required.'

Cornelius said although other figures had been discussed, 6,000 was the minimum requirement based on the most current number of registered voters on the day the petition was turned in to the county. Counting ceased when the required number was reached.

'Be it resolved the commissioners' court finds no legal reason to disapprove,' Cornelius said. All four commissioners voted in favor of the resolution.

'Judge, my opinion on this is Saturday is the best day to hold an election,' said Commissioner Hallie Robinson, pct. 1 (D).

Robinson said more voters would have time to get to polling places on a Saturday and election workers would be more readily available.

Commissioner Jerry Holland, pct. 2 (D), felt limited early voting would be a way to save the taxpayers' money on the election and wondered if time would even allow for the usual two weeks of early voting.

'If we have the election on a Saturday, are we going to need as much early voting?' he asked.

'There is no problem with the dates. They are specified,' said Cornelius. 'The question is what locations if any - do we want to limit it to Waxahachie?'

'No!' came the emphatic reply from Victor Burnett, president of the Waxahachie branch of the NAACP.

Holland was annoyed. 'Victor, you're out of order!' he said. 'Nobody's talking to you!'

'I'm talking to you,' responded Burnett.

'That'll be all,' said Cornelius.

Robinson posed the motion, setting the election for March 3. Holland quickly seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

In another special meeting on Jan. 16, commissioners determined to offer only one location for early voting, the elections office at 217 S. Rogers in Waxahachie. Dates for early voting are Feb. 14-16 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Feb. 20-23 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Feb. 24 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Feb. 26-27 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

'We are going to be able to save a little money this way,' said Cornelius.

Burnett was not pleased with this schedule. 'They are violating the voters' constitutionalrights by designating one place for everybody in the county to go vote early,' he said. 'It deprives the handicapped and senior citizens from driving all over the county to come and vote. It is depriving them of the right to come and vote in the town they live in.'

Ellis County Republican Party Chairman John Tabor said he was very pleased the petition gasrnered enough signatures.

'I would only say, the county judge has made himself famous by saying ‘Let the people choose' or ‘Let the people decide,'' Tabor said. 'Now the people are going to have a chance to decide.'

Burnett said he would be watching to see how the commissioners handle themselves in the coming months.

'The commissioners created this problem,' Burnett said. 'Now they are threatening county employees with loss of their jobs. I don't want the commissioners to hold the county employees hostage.'

Burnett was also emphatic about early voting. 'If they are going to call for an election, let's have early voting accessible for all citizens of the county,' he said.

Having set the date for the election, county officials are being proactive in their efforts to defeat the rollback, which they say will precipitate the loss of numerous jobs.

Charts released by County Auditor Mike Navarro show elimination of 43 jobs and a hiring freeze on 51 new positions previously budgeted.

But an unsigned notice faxed from the Sheriff's Department stated the rollback 'would effect (sic) services provided by the county by: slashing the county workforce by as many as 150 employees from every department including the Sheriff's department. Every department will suffer.'

The document listed other negative consequences of rolling back the county tax rate by six cents, or an estimated $3.2 million. 'Public safety will be compromised with fewer deputies on duty,' it stated. 'Every industry, business, school, town and citizen will be negatively impacted.'

'I'm sure they're under the direction of Cornelius,' said Tabor. 'I'm sure they're painting the bleakest picture.'

Proponents of the rollback said the county would receive enough additional revenue from the two-cent increase combined with higher property valuations to make extensive cutting unnecessary.

'We're meeting in the next week or so to plan a strategy to make it a successful election,' Tabor said. 'We're not going to stop now.'

Rollback leaders have consistently said their intent is to allow the people an opportunity to decide.

'What's wrong with people voting on the issue?' asked Duff Hale.

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