Gov. Greg Abbott has approved Harris County Commissioners’ request to hold a multi-billion-dollar bond referendum election on Aug. 25 to provide funds for flood control projects throughout the county.
Abbott announced his approval of the election on Monday, less than a week after Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously May 1 to request Abbott’s approval.
If Harris County residents vote in favor of the referendum, the bonds issued would provide funding for flood mitigation studies and projects by the Harris County Flood Control District. A list of specific projects has not yet been identified, but at the court’s meeting last week, county officials said the referendum could total about $2.5 billion.
The bond funds would also be used to match funding the county will receive for flood mitigation projects through federal sources, such as the Hurricane Harvey Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The grant money, which comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is part of a federal package to help states affected by natural disasters in 2017 pay for projects to prevent damage in future storms.
Since Hurricane Harvey devastated Harris County last August—flooding an estimated 120,000 structures throughout county—officials have discussed various projects the county needs to complete to mitigate flooding. Some of these projects include building a third reservoir in the Northwest part of the county, buying out properties in high-risk flood areas and widening bayous and creeks throughout the county.
Additional dates for the election were also discussed at Commissioners Court last week, including June 16, November and May 2019 elections. However, county officials said a May 2019 election would be too late to provide flood mitigation funding and a June election too early to get the word out to voters.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has said previously that passing a referendum of this size would raise property tax rates, but the amount of which the rate increases will not be known until the referendum’s amount is final.
Commissioners are expected to vote to call the bond election at an upcoming meeting.