GUIDE: How would Harris County's proposed $2.5 billion bond referendum affect property tax bills?

Harris County commissioners are petitioning voters Aug. 25 for a $2.5 billion bond referendum to provide funding for flood control projects across the county.

Harris County commissioners are petitioning voters Aug. 25 for a $2.5 billion bond referendum to provide funding for flood control projects across the county.

Almost a year after Harvey dropped a trillion gallons of water across the Greater Houston area last August, Harris County is petitioning voters for a $2.5 billion bond referendum, which would fund flood control projects across the region and raise property tax rates if approved by voters Aug. 25.

The bond referendum proposes funding for the Harris County Flood Control District to complete projects across the county. While the proposed list of projects included in the multibillion dollar bond package was updated Aug. 1, the project list is expected to be finalized by Monday at the latest, county officials said Tuesday. The list will not be officially submitted to commissioners court until the Aug. 14 meeting, however.

The bond referendum includes $1 billion for matching funds necessary to receive $3 billion from the U.S. government as well as $1.5 billion reserved for additional funding matches or flood prevention projects, according to county officials. Therefore, in total, HCFCD would have $5.5 billion to work with for flood prevention projects over the next 15 years.

Early voting for the bond referendum is set to begin Aug. 8, and election day is set for Aug. 25. Residents can continue to submit feedback for each watershed online this week.

If the bond package is approved, what would it do to the Harris County Flood Control District's property tax rate?
If the referendum is approved, bonds would not begin to be sold until 2020. As a result, homeowners would not see any tax increase until 2020, Harris County Budget Officer Bill Jackson said.

Frank Bruce, Harris County senior director of finance and budget, said the HCFCD property tax rate could increase one-third of a cent per $100 valuation in 2020 from 2018. This tax rate would be adopted in October 2020 for tax bills due Jan. 31, 2021, he said.

Yet, a change in market conditions, interest rates or the HCFCD's total tax levy could affect this increase, he said.

By 2035, the HCFCD tax rate is anticipated to increase by about 3 cents, roughly doubling the existing tax rate— 2.83 cents per $100 valuation—assuming no change in market conditions, interest rates or the tax levy, Bruce said.

If the tax levy continues to rise—as it has for several years with property value growth and new development—the tax rate increase would be lower in 2035, Bruce said.

How would it affect my tax bill?
The average Harris County homeowner of a $200,000 home would see about a $5 annual increase to the property taxes they pay to HCFCD beginning in 2020, Jackson said.

What would my tax bill look like in 2035?
Jackson said previously that the owner of a $200,000 home—or $166,000 after exemptions—would pay about $50 more in property taxes by 2035.

What if I have an over-65 or disabled exemption?
A homeowner with an over-65 or disabled exemption and a home worth $200,000 or less would not pay any additional taxes to HCFCD, Harris County officials said.




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