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Voters narrowly pass Denton property tax freeze

A proposition to freeze the property tax rate for people 65 and older, as well as those with disabilities, narrowly passed in Saturday's election with 51.4 percent of the vote.

Now, once Denton homeowners turn 65 or show proof of a disability, the property tax bill on their declared homestead will freeze at that current dollar amount as long as they don't move from the property.

Don Duff, who organized to get Proposition 1 on the ballot and is also going into a runoff City Council race for District 3, said he was surprised it passed by such a small margin — 4,173 voting for the proposition to 3,951 voting against. 

The petition to get the tax freeze on the ballot had nearly 8,800 signatures, well above the city's threshold to put an issue to a vote. Plus, almost everyone he asked to sign said yes. 

"We had more people sign that petition than vote in this election. What happened is we didn't really go out and push it," Duff said.

Once the measure was announced in Denton, an organized resistance formed to urge voters to oppose the proposition. Duff said this group was much louder than his contingency. 

Alfredo Sanchez, who helped lead a movement against the freeze, said Saturday night he was disappointed that it appeared the freeze would pass. The people he talked to who were in favor of it never talked about how it would impact the community or city, just themselves, he said. 

"There's no concern for the future, for the future of our children, it's all about 'me'," he said. "Those people I talked to seemed to be very adamant that they deserved a tax break because they're seniors and on a fixed income, and they don't realize young people are struggling just as much or more than they are."

He said he thinks a combination of young people not voting, voter sympathy for the elderly and disabled, and a lack of education on the topic led to the measure passing. 

Duff, who lives in the Robson Ranch retirement community, said there seemed to be animosity toward his neighborhood, with some people thinking they were pushing the freeze for their own benefit. 

"The reason we did this thing is we have a lot of elderly people in their homestead, and if you look at what happened [with property values], it's jumped like crazy," Duff said. "A lot of people have been here and on a fixed income, so I'm very glad it got through."

In the final results, 58 percent of the votes cast in favor of the freeze weren't from Robson's precinct, but other precincts around the city.  

More than a dozen precincts in the center of Denton voted against the freeze, while the surrounding precincts outside of Loop 288 voted for the proposition.

A screenshot of a map from the Denton County Elections Administration shows how each precinct voted on Proposition 1 in Saturday's election.Denton County Elections Administration
A screenshot of a map from the Denton County Elections Administration shows how each precinct voted on Proposition 1 in Saturday's election.
Denton County Elections Administration

Before the election, city staff projected that in 10 years about $400 million in property tax value would be frozen. This would cost the general fund, which primarily pays for fire and police protection, $13 million from 2017 to 2027.

Hundreds of cities across the state have passed similar measures in the past 13 years. In 2003, Texas voters amended the state constitution to allow cities and other local governments to cap property tax rates for seniors and the disabled.

Current state law says once this type of freeze passes, it cannot be rescinded. 

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.

FEATURED PHOTO: Denton residents gather together to view the results for Proposition 1 and District 3 early election results at Wildhorse Grill, Lounge & Bar at Robson Ranch Saturday. 
Jeff Woo/DRC