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Voters narrowly pass water district prop

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, November 11, 2017
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The proposition related to the Wise County Water Supply District was approved by Decatur voters Tuesday, but not overwhelmingly.

Voters approved the proposition by 11 votes – 77 to 66 according to unofficial numbers. Vote totals won’t become final until canvassing takes place.

The Wise County Water Supply District was formed in the 1950s, and it’s responsible for funding water system improvements through bonds. The water district follows the same boundaries as the Decatur city limits.

The enabling legislation to create the district included a requirement that any time the city annexed land, an election is required so voters can approve allowing the newly annexed property to be taxed like the rest of the city.

A vote for or against the proposition would not change the current tax rate for the district.

Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon said the state sets the wording for the proposition, which some voters might find a bit confusing.

“Usually if people don’t understand something, they vote against it,” he said.

Particularly if the proposition includes wording about levying an ad valorem tax.

Shannon said he’s not sure if some who voted understood what voting against the proposition would mean.

“In effect, if it failed, then the current residents of the water district would have to pick up the tab for the newly annexed areas,” he said.

So far, each time the election has been held following annexation, voters have approved the propositions. But the gap has been getting smaller, Shannon said.

In an off-year election, which doesn’t feature a presidential or governor race, the turnout is always smaller, which creates an extra bit of nervousness.

“The lower the turnout, you always get a little more nervous, whether you are an individual or if it’s a bond proposition or anything else, you’d rather have a more representative sample of your population,” he said.

Countywide, voter turnout was around 4 percent of the registered voting population.

By having the election in November rather than next spring, the successful passage of the proposition will allow the district to begin collecting taxes on the newly annexed areas as of Jan. 1 of next year.

The same proposition was included in last May’s election as well. Voters approved that proposition by a vote of 123-69.

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