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State constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters

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ERIC CORNELISON
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ELLIS COUNTY - In the only statewide item on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly favored a constitutional amendment to provide property tax relief for elderly Texans by an almost nine to one ratio.

Ellis County voters approved the proposition on the state constitutional amendment giving seniors and disabled homeowners the same property tax reductions which all other homeowners received in 2006.

The change freezes the current rate for those 65 and older along with the disabled.

The measure passed 5999 for (86.6 percent) and 930 against (13.4 percent) in Ellis County, very similar to the results from around the state which was 87.7 percent for and 12.3 percent against.

'I'm glad to see that this measure passed overwhelmingly,' said State Representative Jim Pitts.

'Making sure that senior citizens enjoy the same property tax relief as other homeowners was a major priority this session and I'm glad to see it's been accomplished.

'With passage of this measure, senior citizens, along with all other property owners, should soon see significant property tax relief.'

The measure had been heavily supported by the American Association of Retired People which called passage 'essential.'

There was some confusion in more rural counties which didn't have a central elections office.

Cities and school districts sometimes administer their own election but it was up to the county to oversee the amendment ballot which meant voters sometimes were forced to go to a second polling place to vote on the amendment after casting votes in local elections.

This was prevalent in the City of Red Oak, where several citizens were sent away from the voting facility and told to go to another facility in Ferris.

A Notice of Consolidated Precinct signed by County Judge Chad Adams, consolidated the registered voters of precinct 106-143 with the voters of precinct 105 which voted at the Ferris Junior High but in the notice the address read 301 E. Fifth St., Red Oak, Tx.

Norma Lauer took her brother to the Municipal Center in Red Oak a little after 12:30 p.m. and was told they didn't vote there and according to Lauer was sent to the new Red Oak elementary on Valley Ridge Road.

'I tried to tell them no, we are Red Oak citizens and that we are supposed to vote here,' Lauer said.

After finally speaking with a neighbor she ran into on the way out of the elementary, who was also sent to the there to vote, Lauer, her brother and the neighbor went back to city hall.

According to sources close to the City of Red Oak elections, many people were being turned away because the city elections were to be voted on in Red Oak but the voters from precinct 106-143 were to vote in Ferris on the county issues. Few opposed the amendment, placed on the ballot after the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure in February, but there were some concerns which the tax reductions approved last year were intended to give relief to homeowners who have seen their property-tax skyrocket.

The need for the amendment arose last year to fix a crisis in school financing when the legislature overhauled the business-franchise tax and increased taxes on cigarettes and some used car sales to make the state less reliant on local property taxes to fund public education.

At the same time, lawmakers approved a one-third cut in local school property taxes implemented over two years, but there wasn't time in the special legislative session to extend those school property-tax cuts to the elderly, whose taxes are frozen when they turn 65, or the disabled, whose taxes stay the same from the time they purchase a house. Under the constitutional amendment, the elderly and disabled would be eligible for the 2007 cuts and would be credited for the 2006 reductions.

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