City councils and the Dallas County Board of Supervisors are busy getting their ballot language decided on and in place for the special Local Option Sales Tax election on Nov. 7. Cities have to clarify in their ballot language what rate they will charge, which is 1 percent across all cities, and what they will spend the money on.
In their ballot language, the cities can choose whether or not to include a sunset date. If they choose not to include a sunset date, then the tax, if approved by the voters, would be imposed for an unlimited amount time unless, however, the Dallas County Board of Supervisors chooses to include a countywide sunset on their ballot language.
Supervisors Brad Golightly and Kim Chapman both agreed that they were leaning towards including a county-wide sunset on the tax, while Supervisor Mark Hanson said he wanted to first hear the opinions of some of those who signed the petition to get the issue on the ballot.
“The reason for that is that I feel like we’d be tying the hands of people into the future to a tax,” Golightly said. “And the tax is optional in the law and as time goes, if people would like to have a tax, I think just as they approached it this time, they petition to have it and use it and that’s good.
If a city does not have a sunset on the Local Option Sales Tax, the process to repeal it in the future looks a lot like the process has been to have the issue put on the ballot, with citizens needing to petition and vote to have it repealed.
“I’m leaning into that it should be harder to impose a tax than to repeal,” Golightly said. “So that’s why I’m thinking that the sunset is a good thing.”
If the issue passes in all jurisdictions, including in unincorporated Dallas County, the Local Option Sales Tax would be considered a countywide tax. To repeal a countywide tax would require a petition at the county level, signatures from 1 percent of registered voters from the previous election. If the issue doesn’t pass in all jurisdictions in the county, the repeal process would only require a petition at the city level for those wishing to repeal it, according to County Attorney Wayne Reisetter.
If the issue passes in a city, and that city council doesn’t want to impose the tax, that city council then has 90 days to vote and opt out without needing to go through the repeal process.
Golightly said that he feels that some of the smaller communities who are in favor of imposing the Local Option Sales Tax view the revenue as “free money” since they receive more than what they put in.
“I understand that’s why it’s being pressed forward, but it’s really not free money because we all are going to be paying in more, and unless we have a real need for more, it’s just another tax,” Golightly said.
Breanna Morman, Mayor of Dawson, was at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday and discussed how important the Local Option Sales Tax is to the City of Dawson, who received about $8,000 in 2016 from the tax.
“I hate to hear it as ‘free money,’ but it does keep us functioning,” Morman said. “It keeps us on the map.”
The City of Dawson’s current Local Option Sales Tax is set to expire at the end of the this year. Perry’s will expire at the end of 2019 and, therefore, they will also participate in this special election.
Hanson said that if they don’t want to view the revenue as “free money” they could state in their ballot language that all revenue for unincorporated Dallas County, would be used for tax relief on those homeowners.
Adel is a special situation where if the Supervisors were to include a countywide sunset, it would not affect them since Adel already has Local Option Sales Tax in effect with no sunset and, therefore, will not be required to participate in this election.
Dallas County Auditor, Julia Helm, said that she would like to have ballot languages from each city participating in the election, by Aug. 21 so that they can have it published 60 days before the election on Nov. 7.