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Council to hold hearings on proposed tax rate increase

Here’s your chance to be heard.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston City Council set the ball rolling Wednesday on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s proposed 8.9 percent tax rate hike to help fund Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey, in what would be the first hike from City Hall in more than two decades.

The council voted to schedule three public hearings on the issue, which is expected to reach a formal vote on Oct. 18.

Those hearings will be held at City Hall on:

Sept. 25 at 6 p.m.
Oct. 2 at 6 p.m.
Oct. 11 at 9 a.m.

[…]

The mayor said his staff will work over the next two to three weeks to better estimate what the insurance policies will cover, what the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse, and what the city will be left to pay itself.

After that review, Turner said, the proposed 8.9 percent increase could be reduced.

See here for the background. Campos says he wants specifics. Sounds like we ought to have them by the end of this process. I note in passing that the Harris County GOP has put out a statement opposing this proposal. I say no trash collection for them until all the Harvey debris has been carted off, too.

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17 Comments

  1. neither here nor there says:

    Many local Republicans are in a tizzy about the one time tax increase.

    Why is the county not picking up our debris, we pay county taxes.

    Why can’t the state help?

    Those darn un-American Republicans are much more interested in pushing a party that now stands for helping Russia get Trump elected then helping citizens who live in Democratic controlled cities. Those Republicans are out to destroy the union.

  2. Thank You For Your Honesty says:

    Unfortunately the County can’t pick up debris inside the city limits per the City’s request because of FEMA reimbursement. The County is doing all the debris pickup in the unincorporated areas but if they did any in the city limits the City would have to go back and disaggregate who picked up where and how much of it to avoid running afoul of FEMA when requesting their 90% reimbursement.

    It’s a rationale that makes sense, but I agree it’s not a terribly satisfying one, particularly because, as you rightly note, incorporated or not we’re all paying county taxes.

  3. neither here nor there says:

    I find that hard to believe that bodies political could not figure out what areas were covered by another body political. But if that is what the county and city say who am I to argue with such logic.

  4. Mike said he will consider voting for the tax increase when people start calling his office requesting to pay more taxes. Here is the link.

    http://www.houstontx.gov/council/3/

    His cell phone is (281) 850-0172. Tell him you insist on paying more taxes. He will listen and you can persuade him. Especially if you are a senior citizen.

  5. Steve Houston says:

    Paul, given Houston has expanded the senior exemption, would those calling have to demand their exemption be lowered as well?

  6. […] Steve Houston on Council to hold hearings on proposed tax rate increase […]

  7. Paul Kubosh says:

    Steve, who cares about the Houston exemption? It doesn’t apply to school taxes, county taxes, or renters. People who say seniors don’t pay taxes or not properly informed. Surely your not implying seniors are not affected. 60% of seniors in City or renters. Tax the apartments and they will pass it down to renters.

    There is a better way to raise taxes.

  8. Steve Houston says:

    PK, the county tax exemption for seniors is even more than that from the city, but I’m sure you knew that. Even if your numbers are accurate, it suggests almost half of the group would see little difference in taxes tied to flooding under either the city or county proposals, the only taxes that count in that regard are city and county taxes since schools don’t spend gobs of money to prevent flooding. You told us that your brother wanted to hear from people that wanted their taxes raised, not those that demanded improved services (which typically cost a lot of money needing to come from somewhere), hence my original question since you specifically pointed out seniors.

    Now that you’re changing the subject to “better ways to raise taxes”, let’s hear it. It seems like earlier this year, we all got to hear how using debt was “bad” since the long term costs could double the real costs so Houston’s mayor suggests a one time increase to pay for Harvey clean up. Now that the GOP led county is considering using debt while the Democrat led city roles are reversed, the narrative changes to suggest paying for event-specific costs are better addressed via bonds. Each has merit and each has a downside but it seems some make a reflexive “any approach used by a democrat is bad” and “any approach by the GOP is good” so I look forward to hearing your better way to raise taxes which will hopefully be devoid of partisan BS.

  9. C.L. says:

    Maybe Paul could convince his brother Mike to reinstate the Red Light Camera Program, using the monies generated by the herds of ass clowns who regularly run red lights in the City to pay for the Harvey-related cleanup. Hell, reinstate it solely for a year – the sheer number of people, endangering other’s lives due the lack of cameras and police presence at the intersections, that would receive tickets should put a sizeable dent in the $100M needed.

  10. C.L. the voters declined to participate in the Red Light Program. Remember?

    Steve, speaking for myself I wouldn’t raise any taxes to pay for pick up. Also I disagree with you on the impact of a property tax increase on those of us on fixed income.

    Some of us have never seen a tax hike we didn’t like. That is O.K. This isn’t a heaven or hell issue. Socialist can make it to Heaven also.

    Finally, just because I don’t want a tax hike doesn’t mean I think Turner is doing a bad job. I think Turner is doing a good job and deserves a second term. I just disagree with him on this issue.

  11. Jason Hochman says:

    C. L. : they aren’t even sure of the price tag. The clean up estimated cost is $200 million but the federal government will cover 90% of that, so it’s only $20 million need. The article said that in a moment of inspired thinking, they left 334 city vehicles in an underground garage and will want to buy brand new ones. They also want to use the tax increase to repair the court building. Without the court building, they can’t get the money from HREs (human revenue enhancers such as red light tickets and other traffic fines). There would be no place to have the hearings. I’m sure that the city has insurance for a lot of the damage. They just want the tax increase now so that they can raise the tax on the valuations before the flood. Now that everyone discovered that swamp land is not very valuable, unless you raise gators or water lilies, the assessed values will drop.

  12. Steve Houston says:

    PK, I can’t say if the proposal is good or bad since no specifics have come out but I’m willing to let the mayor make his case given his overall competence as mayor so far. Jason’s belief that all the city vehicles that have flooded were in a single location is wrong, certain fire stations and police stations had vehicles left to flood, the details will eventually come out on the specifics. The city has insurance in some areas and self insures in others, at least to a degree, so it’s possible the final proposal covers everything needed and then banks the rest since HCAD valuations for subsequent years are certain to drop for the 10-15% or so that flooded.

    I only commented on your earlier post because it assumed seniors were especially at risk of paying more, much like your followup suggesting they are necessarily on fixed incomes or lack the means to cover small increases (with the exemptions the city and county give them, plus the median price of their homes, this doesn’t appear to be the case). The city/county could tailor any proposals to address real concerns, isn’t that part of what the hearings are supposed to be about? If a homeowner can’t afford an extra $100 due to such a disaster as Harvey, maybe they should rethink ownership of a home in what amounts to a “full service city” as some call Houston, other methods of handling the debris being to institute a garbage FEE (not a tax) like every other major city in the country, I’m still waiting to hear your “better way to raise taxes” you spoke of above. If that has now changed to no new or increased taxes, that’s fine too but I’m sure you have some reasonable ideas to share.

  13. Jason Hochman says:

    @ Steve Houston–abc channel 13 states that the city expects to have FEMA pay for the vehicles:

    “The City of Houston will have to replace more than 350 vehicles as a result of Harvey’s floodwaters.

    After a preliminary assessment, officials said 134 Houston police vehicles were flooded. The Houston Fire Department lost 15 fire apparatus, while the public works and engineering department lost the most at 140 vehicles.

    Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city will work as quickly as possible to purchase new cars, and he believes the costs will be reimbursed by the federal government.

    “A lot of the purchases of these vehicles is reimbursable, from FEMA. That’s why we have asked for an advanced payment, as much as possible, hopefully out of this package. The initial request is about $300 million,” Turner said during his weekly news conference.”

    The underground parking garage vehicle disaster happened during a previous flood. Also from channel 13:

    “Nearly 100 city-owned vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the massive Memorial Day flooding that swept through the region, including police squad cars, ambulances and ladder trucks, records obtained by ABC-13 show.

    As many as 16 of those vehicles, including city-owned Priuses, were flooded when a City Hall annex parking garage worker did not deploy a flood gate that would have prevented waters from pouring into that underground parking structure, officials said.

    “We knew it was raining, we know it was flooding and you have to be proactive,” said Houston City Councilman Michael Kubosh. “You have to err on the side of caution. You have to close the gate.”

  14. neither here nor there says:

    I don’t know why many of you think that FEMA will just hand out money for FEMA related costs, it doesn’t, not even when one has insurance.

    One of cars was totaled, think I have a chance of getting my $500 deductible from FEMA? If they won’t give that amount why would they pay for the full amount if I didn’t have insurance.

    Will have to wait for specifics as one writer mentioned.

    As to the vehicles in the garage it was a weekend and in all probability that is where the vehicles are scheduled to be stationed over the weekend, if only it had happened on a weekday? Actually flooding in the garage has occurred in the past during a weekday, and the cars were taken out. The garage is adjacent to the public works building. I guess we could make them all take home cars. Ooops my car flooded in the driveway.

    The fire station near my house flooded as did several of the vehicles that are stationed there, they had about 4 feet of water. That weekend they were short handed as many fire personal were told to stay home. Plus the water rose too quickly, first time I saw it happen and I have been in this area about 50 years.

    PK I called and told him to vote for tax increase for one year. The county trying to suck it to us for about 11% additional taxes for at least one decade if not longer, have to wait for the specifics on that also. That percentage includes the additional tax increase that most homes have to pay.

  15. Paul Kubosh says:

    Neither, glad called. Have a good night.

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    It would be a good piece of investigative journalism for someone to research exactly under what circumstances each of those city vehicles went under and were ruined. I can see water rising so quickly that they couldn’t be moved. I can also see that some might have been used trying to rescue people and didn’t make it. I’m really hoping there isn’t a New Orleans style school buses in a parking lot situation here, though.

  17. David Fagan says:

    Lift the revenue cap anyone?

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