Speakers decry tax increases
Three residents addressed the council, each speaking out against an increase in property tax rates for fiscal year 2018.
“I’m so dismayed at what I’ve been hearing,” said Kathleen Zak. “The reason the [sales] tax revenue is down, the reason the oil revenue is down is because people are economizing. Why can’t you economize? Why can’t you cut back? I don’t want to be taxed out of my house.”
The city tax rate accounts for 15 percent of residents’ property tax bills, according to meeting documents. Another 21 percent goes to the county, and 64 percent goes to the school district, according to the documents.
In an effort to contain property tax increases to residents, the city has increased homestead exemptions in the past decade, according to meeting documents. The city’s property tax rate has decreased from $0.50 per $100 valuation in 1993 to $0.31595 per $100 valuation today, according to meeting documents.
A separate public hearing was held for the 2017 annual assessment of Enclave at Riverpark Public Improvement District, which was created in 2014 to fund improvements to the Enclave at Riverpark subdivision, an approximately 54-acre single-family residential development of 130 residential lots, according to meeting documents.
The residents in the subdivision pay the city property tax and also a flat fee for infrastructure that is specific to their development, said Jennifer Brown, the city’s director of finance. The public hearing was scheduled so residents may comment on the set fee for this year.
Meeting documents state the 2017 assessment is proposed to be $1,005 per lot, a $6 decrease from 2016. The final assessment amount will be set in September.
Legislation impacts the city
In a report to council members on legislative action in Austin, intergovernmental relations manager Rick Ramirez said three bills passed during the recent regular session will improve Sugar Land.
House Bill 931 allows Texas cities to enter into agreements with electric utility companies to access the companies’ utility corridors, allowing cities to operate hike and bike trails on land owned and occupied by the utilities, Ramirez said.
HB 2445 qualifies the city to receive a 10-year tax rebate of state hotel occupancy taxes and state sales and use taxes to finance the construction of a hotel or conference center, which would save the city money in construction costs, he said.
Another bill, HB 4297, is specific to Sugar Land and creates a commercial management district surrounding Telfair Tract 5 near the Smart Financial Centre, Ramirez said.
“The main goal for that management district is to be able to coordinate parking and security for that area,” he said.
Other bills passed by the legislature could prove costly to the city, Ramirez said.
For example, to comply with Senate Bill 1004, which allows wireless companies set up telecom equipment in cities’ rights-of-way, city staffers spent a lot of time devising a plan to address this issue, Ramirez said.
Annexation of 241 acres of land considered
City council approved a first reading of an ordinance that would annex 241.175 acres of land adjacent to the New Territory Municipal Utility Districts, placing the annexed land in Sugar Land District 2, according to meeting documents.
Drought contingency plan discussed
Water resources manager Katie Clayton presented to city council updates for Sugar Land’s drought contingency plan including details about the additional water systems that the city will acquire through annexation of Greatwood and New Territory.
The city’s current plan was revised and adopted in 2014 and an update is required every five years, according to the Texas Administrative Code, Clayton said. However, with the annexation taking place in December, an earlier update was necessary.
The updated plan includes changes to lawn and garden watering schedules during declared droughts, and the authorization of the city manager to initiate or terminate the plan as necessary, Clayton said.