November 5th Election Results – Your Votes Matter!

by Perry Pillow, AATC

With the general disgust and genuine frustration with the way we chose our leaders, many AATC members wonder if their vote truly makes a difference. This thought is prevalent in off-year, mundane elections like the recent November 5thelection, but sometimes these elections can yield surprising results; for example, the Karis Municipal Management District of Tarrant County propositions A, B, C, D, E, & F!

Each of these propositions passed by one vote; because only one vote was cast! One person decided on the fate of these proposals. One person determined the outcome. One voter-approved creating an entity that has the power to tax landowners, levy sales and use taxes, make district-wide improvements, and provide public safety and other services. One individual, one vote, one powerful outcome.

In general, the November 5thstate constitutional amendment and school bond elections were necessary, housekeeping measures that were as boring as watching paint dry; but had a significant financial impact on apartment owners and operators.

The Texas Constitution is so narrowly written that to accomplish routine legislative initiatives requires Texas voters to approve amending the constitution rather than mere legislature approval and governor assent.  It is a cumbersome, antiquated process, but it gives the people a direct voice in deciding how our state operates. This election, Texans approved nine amendments, including a proposal making it harder for future lawmakers to enact a personal income tax and a proposal concerning bonds for cancer research, and rejected one amendment:  allowing a person to serve as a municipal judge for more than one city at the same time.

Propositions 3 and 4 significantly impact AATC members. Proposition 3 (approved by 85% of the voters) allows the Legislature to create temporary property tax exemptions for people with property damage in governor-declared disaster areas. TAA worked hard to get this measure on the ballot and approved. Proposition 4 (approved by 74% of the voters) makes it more challenging for future lawmakers to enact a personal income tax, requiring support from two-thirds—instead of a simple majority—of the House and Senate and a majority of Texas voters.

AATC members pay the largest portion of their property taxes to school districts. Texas school districts’ property tax rate consists of maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate and, if applicable, an interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate. The M&O tax rate provides funds for maintenance and operations. The I&S tax rate provides funds for payments on the debt that finances a district’s facilities.  The M&O rate is capped at $1.17 per $100 of valuation.  The I&S rate (i.e. debt) is not capped. The I&S rate is used to pay for bonds issued for capital projects. On November 5th, Tarrant County voters approved numerous increases in school debt obligations including 1) Arlington ISD, $966 million; Tarrant County College District, $825 million; Aledo ISD$150 million; Everman ISD, $40 million; and Keller ISD, $315 million.  Voters in Azle rejected a $78 million bond.

Outside the Lone Star State, political pundits are busy trying to assess the significance of the Kentucky, Mississippi, and Virginia elections. In Kentucky (a state Trump won by more than 30 percentage points); the Democrat challenger narrowly defeated the incumbent Republican governor.  Mississippi voters stayed solidly Republican and Virginia voters flipped both the Virginia House and Virginia Senate to the Democrats. What these results mean for 2020, no one knows, but the trend favors the Democrats.