The topic for today’s column was prompted by a story I read in The Texan leading up to the May 6 city and school elections. It was about sitting Palestine city council member/mayoral candidate Krissy Clark and her votes on the tax rate, city council salaries and expenses, but primarily the deferral of her property taxes.
As I followed the drama in Palestine and the resulting city ordinance which now allows legal tax deferrals for its elected officials, it made me wonder if property ownership and the obligation to pay property taxes is required by any of our Grimes County taxing entities. After all, having to write their own check for something they voted for places elected officials in the same boat with their constituents.
Not finding answers to my questions on state websites, in mid-May I reached out to our big three taxing entities – the City of Navasota, Grimes County and Navasota ISD - to see if their charters or associations address property ownership as an elected official. I received quick responses from both Dr. Musick with NISD and County Attorney Jon C. Fultz’s office but as of press time, the City of Navasota has not responded. Reviewing the information I did receive, while there are age, citizenship, filing, mental competency and residency requirements, owning property is not a factor in holding elected office as a school board member or a county commissioner in Grimes County.
This subject led me down the proverbial rabbit hole to a recent Navasota Town Hall seeking resident input on city services and quality of life. Some folks I knew to be renters had a pretty lofty “wish list” which made me wonder if they understood how services are funded. I’m not saying renters aren’t entitled to make recommendations about services and amenities but do they realize that the cost of a Navasota bus system, for example, would be on my dime? And possibly passed on to them through a rent increase? This would be quite relevant if they were considering elected office! I heard some pretty elaborate wishes at that meeting - along with a ‘ca-ching, ca-ching,’ in my head - the sound of my taxes going up!
Another wild card in this renter/property owner/elected official taxing triangle is that home ownership is declining, partly due to costs and partly due to attitude. For instance, in Japan, more than 50% of Japanese young adults live with their parents well beyond their 30s and are dependent on their aging parents for support. They’ve become known as “disenfranchised parasite singles.” In the United States since Covid, we’ve see our own generation of young people living in a malaise under their parents’ roof with little desire to take on the responsibility of a job, much less property ownership.
Personally speaking, my parents never owned a home and I have a family member who rents because she can’t afford to do otherwise. As a married woman, the only time I wasn’t a property owner was the first 7-8 months of marriage but I’m not advocating that only property owners be allowed to serve as elected officials. That alone isn’t a fool-proof determinant of the ability to make sound financial decisions.
This subject matter, however, is food for thought as we face a changing demographic and candidate pool. It’s also a challenge to Examiner readers to scrutinize the fiscal policies of those candidates who’ll have the power to determine budgets and tax rates. I want whoever sits on those taxing entities, whether they rent or own, to respect my tax dollars and appreciate how hard for me those dollars were to come by!
Back to the news item responsible for this column… the Palestine mayoral race resembles a bad 1970s miniseries about small town southern politics. The drama includes shots fired at the home of a candidate who eventually dropped out, claims of “delinquent indebtedness,” and the fact that both candidates have previous interactions with law enforcement and not in a good way. The contention ends, hopefully, June 24 when voters decide between Clark and Mitchell Jordan in a Runoff Election.
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.