The Threat of Mayor Turner's Tax Increase Looms After Hurricane Harvey
"We're all in this together." To quote Bill Lumberg from the cult classic Office Space, "I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there." Many of you know that Mayor Turner is proposing a temporary tax hike to help pay for the damage that the city incurred after Hurricane Harvey. Thankfully we have some conservative friends on Houston City Council, one being Councilman Mike Knox. He's there to shed some light on what is going on. Here is the information that he shared via social media a few weeks ago and his position on the tax increase:
"Tropical Storm Harvey created an unprecedented degree of damage in the Houston area.
The mayor says we need immediate funds to get the debris collected and removed, to replace city vehicles destroyed, to repair city buildings damaged, and to fix damaged roadways. His position is we cannot wait for FEMA to begin this process so we must raise the property tax rate, using the emergency clause contained in it."
"Okay, I can agree with all of these facts. Now here is the problem: If the tax rate is increased the money it generates will not be available until way after January or February of next year. You see, the tax rate has to be approved by council, which cannot be accomplished until October 18th."
"The tax rate notification must then be forwarded to the County Tax Assessor/Collector who must then send out the tax bills and then we have to wait for the owners to send in their tax payments.
The maximum we expect from this tax increase is 113 million dollars more than we would get without the temporary tax increase."
"There is nothing quick about this process. There is, however, a better and much faster way.
The city holds back 7.5% of its budget in the ready fund balance for emergencies. In our current budget that amounts to approximately 150 million dollars. In addition, we have approximately 50 million dollars over that amount for a total of around 200 million dollars available today to spend on the "emergency" items. A figure substantially larger than the amount we would receive from the increased tax."
"The mayor could place this request on tomorrow's agenda and be spending it on debris removal and other items by Friday. Without the need to raise anyone's tax rate. It appears to me the Mayor is using everyone's emotion and desire to quickly recover from the horrible devastation to enact an increased tax rate for this coming year, when he must know the funds could not be available until the Spring of next year."
"The discrepancy in the stated nature of the emergency and the necessity for immediate funding, combined with the natural and unavoidable delay in obtaining the funds, gives me significant reason for pause. Especially when a faster and immediately fundable mechanism exists to accomplish the stated goals."
There have already been a few hearings on this and for all of the outrage on Facebook and elsewhere, only a handful of people actually showed up to speak against this tax increase, which is anything but temporary. I've been in touch with Councilman Knox since he posted the above text and he said that there are a few more hearings to follow. Monday, October 2nd at 6PM and Wednesday, October 11th at 9 AM. The hearings will be held at 901 Bagby Street on the 2nd floor. Thanks to Councilman Knox for keeping us informed of the situation.