At the Oct. 16 Kingwood-Area Super Neighborhood Council meeting, Kennedy Purser of Precinct 4 Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle’s office announced that the threat of a substantial Harris County property tax increase has been stopped.
Instead there will be a 3% tax decrease.
She said, “The proposed tax increase is not happening because Mr. Cagle and Mr. Radack did not show up [at the commissioners meeting on Oct. 8] and so there was no quorum. They were not able to vote on it so it went to the ‘effective rate’ which is actually a decrease.”
Purser explained that the two commissioners, Cagle and Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack skipped the Oct. 8 meeting in order to block a vote on an 8% proposed tax rate increase. State law requires any changes from the state’s “effective rate” had to be set by Oct. 11 so their absence from the meeting not only denied the court a quorum, it resulted in a mandatory lowering of tax rate for the 2019 tax year. Texas law requires four out of the five commissioners to be present to vote on a tax rate increase. As a result the Commissioners Court held a special meeting Monday, Oct. 14 and formally adopted the now required valuation rate of 61.17 cents per $100 assessed valuation which is 1.8 cents lower than the current rate of 62.998 cents or about 3%. Purser provided copies of the Precinct 4 Commissioners Court October Update which explains the impact for an average homeowner.
It states, “This is a rate reduction but still generates more revenue. The average homeowner would pay $30.45 less than the current rate. The effective rate would raise about $15 million in additional funding for the county’s general fund compared to the previous year, an additional $3.3 million for the flood control district, and an additional $19 million for the hospital district.”
The increase is the result of overall economic growth and generally increasing property valuations.
The whole reason for this tax reduction happening the way it did was community reaction to changes in property tax regulations in Senate Bill 2 which the Texas Legislature passed during the 2019 session. Harris County Commissioners were scheduled to vote Oct. 8 to raise the county’s property tax rate for the first time since 1996 in order to do it before the more restrictive new law takes effect. If passed, it would have boosted revenue by 8%, the maximum year-to-year increase allowed under current law without voter approval. The proposal was an attempt by three of the commissioners to generate the maximum amount of revenue possible before the new law took effect. Starting in January 2020, annual city and county property tax revenue growth will be limited to 3.5% without a public vote under Senate Bill 2.
In other business the council members were updated regarding a number of current projects and activities around the community.
Humble ISD Boardmember Lori Twomey reported the school has received approval and 90% funding from FEMA for its planned long-term renovation of the Kingwood High School Gymnasium that flooded, again, during the Imelda flood event.
She said, “We actually got a plan approved by FEMA that will pay 90% of it, which is great as it is a $28-30 million project.”
Twomey explained that it will be done in two phases. The first will be to waterproof the entire athletic facility up to 2 feet above the 500-year floodplain level and second is to build a floodgate-diversion system around the facility to direct rising water away from it. She pointed out that the floodgate-diversion phase will take up to 2 1/2 years to complete. Twomey emphasized that a primary requirement was to ensure the rising water will be diverted into proper drainage flow areas and not into where it would threaten and flood homes.
Council President Stan Sarman announced that FEMA assistance information regarding the recent Imelda flooding is now available by contacting them or going to their web page. He also noted that FEMA is working on the redefining of the 500-year floodplain in the entire area, including Kingwood. However, he explained that the planned date to finish the project is not until 2024. He noted when they did it following tropical storm Allison in 2001 it took six to seven years.
The next Kingwood Area Super Neighborhood Council Meeting will be on Nov. 20 at the Kingwood Community Center, 4102 Rustic Woods Drive in Kingwood.