League City residents facing potential May election for $249M bond, sales tax increase

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Facing millions of dollars worth of drainage, traffic and other expensive problems, League City officials are proposing a bond election for May of up to $249 million.

Officials are also considering asking voters to increase the city’s sales tax rate by 0.25 percent and using the extra revenue to offset costs.

The city in November identified $249 million worth of projects with $121 million going toward drainage, $88.5 million toward mobility, $22.5 million toward the construction of an additional library and $17 million toward public safety improvements.

Staff realized that might be too much to ask. The bond could be lowered to about $200 million and include only drainage and traffic fixes, the two most pressing issues the city faces, Assistant City Manager Bo Bass said.

Still, the city’s total fiscal year 2019 budget is $207.76 million. The bond would rival how much the city spends on all operational and capital expenses in an entire year, Bass said.

League City has an 8 percent sales tax with 1.75 percent going to the city. An election could ask voters to increase the total sales tax to 8.25 percent with a full 2 percent going to the city—the maximum allowed under state law and what most nearby cities do, City Manager John Baumgartner said.

A $249 million bond could raise the property tax rate of $0.5638 per $100 valuation by $0.06-$0.10. If the sales tax increase were approved, which would generate an estimated $3.3 million in additional revenue in the first year and grow annually, the property tax increase could be as low as $0.03-$0.06, Baumgartner said.

Some League City City Council members have another idea.

Council Member Nick Long does not want to see property tax rates increase. His proposal is to ask voters for a sales tax increase and about a $150 million bond no earlier than November.

The sales tax increase could generate enough revenue to cover the bond without affecting property tax rates. The bond would cover only drainage and traffic problems. It is too early and would cost too much to build a new library and address public safety concerns when flooding and mobility are residents’ main worry, Long said.

Other council members have shown support for Long’s idea, he said.

According to a recent citizen survey, 60 percent of League City residents believe traffic and drainage are the most important issues the city should address. At a town hall meeting Nov. 8 dozens of residents gathered to share their concerns about flooding.

One resident, Scott Momper, said his garage has flooded 12 times over the past 23 months. He said the city setting development standards to prevent flooding for new buildings is not doing enough to help those already here who still flood.

“Talk is cheap,” he said, “but no one’s talking about the people that are already here, the houses that are already here.”

After Hurricane Harvey the city hired engineering firms to study several areas that flooded the worst. The firms identified 26 projects totaling $121 million, and none of the projects address Clear Creek or Dickinson Bayou, which are both prone to flooding.

“The purpose of those studies wasn’t to fix all our problems because there’s not enough money in the world to do all that,” Bass said.

The city is pursuing several grants to offset the $121 million cost. The city expects to receive some grant money but certainly not enough to cover all projects, Bass said.

According to a tentative timeline, City Council will finalize a list of bond program projects by early next year, after which the city will host several town halls to educate the public about the program. The election could be in May or November of next year, depending on council’s direction, but the city is pushing for May. The council has until Feb. 15 to decide if there will be a May election.

“There’s a sense of urgency in the community to get it going,” Bass said.

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Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for a few years, covering topics such as city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be an editor with Community Impact. In his free time, Magee enjoys playing video games, jamming on the drums and bass, longboarding and petting his cat.
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