Flood-prevention, school finance bills approved in 86th Texas Legislature to affect Lake Houston area

Image description
LHK-2019-06-20-1
Image description
LHK-2019-06-20-2
Image description
LHK-2019-06-20-3
Hundreds of bills passed during the 86th Texas Legislature, and many of them will directly affect the Lake Houston area, including a school finance reform bill, flood mitigation funds and bills seeking to regulate sand-mining companies.

The $11.6 billion school finance reform legislation, House Bill 3, was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 11. The bill is being touted by lawmakers as a victory for public school districts, such as Humble and New Caney ISDs—as both districts are anticipated to receive millions of dollars in additional funds for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

Co-authored by state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, HB 3 puts forth about $6.5 billion toward public education and about $5.1 billion toward property tax reform. Huberty said the percentage of public education funding from the state to school districts has decreased in recent years.

“Instead of paying what would be considered at least half of the cost of education, we have … continued to decline and use that money for other purposes,” Huberty said.

Lawmakers also pushed bills through the session that sought to fund flood prevention projects, such as dredging the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, and create stricter regulations for sand mining companies—which some officials said have contributed to Lake Houston-area flooding.

School finance reform


Despite HB 3’s passage, local educators said there is a lot of uncertainty about the reform’s effects on districts such as Humble and New Caney ISDs.

HISD Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen said the Texas Education Agency is scheduled to release a Preliminary Summary of Finance worksheet to help the district determine a more accurate estimate of revenue.

The Legislative Budget Board created model runs for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, which are helping school districts predict increased revenue.

The LBB estimates HISD’s revenue will increase by almost $22.9 million in 2020 and $24.3 million in 2021, while NCISD’s revenue is set to increase by $15.5 million and $16 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

HB 3 reduced recapture payments from property-wealthy districts to property-poor districts, increased the base funding for each student and provides funds for full-day pre-K for economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds. HB 3 also mandated districts allocate 30% of new monies to employee raises with three-fourths of it reserved for teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors.

On June 11, the HISD board of trustees unanimously approved an $18.7 million compensation package for employees—which district officials said is the largest compensation package in memory.

“I wanted to make sure people understood that we’re not putting that state money in our pockets—we’re putting it where it matters most, and that’s the folks on the front line working with our kids,” trustee Robert Sitton said.

Additionally, the district also increased employee raises for police officers and bus drivers as well as custodial, cafeteria and assistant staff.

On June 17, NCISD board of trustees approved a 5.5% pay increase for teachers with more than five years’ experience, a 5% increase for teachers with five years or less experience and a 4% increase for all other employees.

“The district’s compensation plan proposal calls for teacher raises that are greater than what is required by HB 3 with the goal of remaining in the top quartile in the Houston area in teacher compensation,” said Scott Powers, the executive director of public relations at NCISD, via email.

Focus on flooding


A trio of bills—Senate bills 6, 7 and 8—aimed at preventing flooding across Texas and disbursing funds throughout damage-stricken parts of the state were signed into law by Abbott in mid-June.

“I am proud of the work that we did to address [Hurricane] Harvey, and am confident that Texas will now have the most comprehensive flood-mitigation and recovery package in the nation,” said state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who authored SB 7.

SB 6 is aimed at improving how emergency departments respond to flooding, while SB 7 deals with present-time Hurricane Harvey recovery. Both bills were signed by Abbott on June 13. The third bill, SB 8, which calls for a statewide flood-mitigation plan, was signed June 10.

With SB 7’s implementation, roughly $1.8 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund would go toward Creighton’s Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund and Senate bills 6 and 8, with another $1.2 billion directed at the local school tax revenue that was lost due to property damage, according to a Senate newsletter.

Russ Poppe, executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District, said the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Division of Emergency Management are the two state agencies responsible for issuing guidance on SB 7. The internal guidance will better guide the HCFCD on accessing funds and prioritizing projects, he said.

Huberty also said these bills—along with an amendment to SB 500 that allocated $30 million to dredging operations in rivers and tributaries—will contribute to flood-mitigation efforts in the Lake Houston area. He said the $30 million can be used as a state match to local funds.

“We’re going to start using that money to dredge the inlets and a lot of the bayous in and around Lake Houston and the work that has not been completed that’ll need to be completed relative to the mouth bar [of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River],” he said.

Environmental regulations


Lawmakers also tackled the issue of sand mining during the legislative session, as some organizations and officials have said the growing number of sand mining operations along the West Fork of the San Jacinto River may have increased the amount of sediment in the river—thus reducing the river’s capacity to hold water in flood events.

SB 2126, also authored by Creighton, did not pass in the session. It would have allowed sand mining operations, known as aggregate production operators (APOs), to mine from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and its tributaries to increase the river’s capacity to hold water.

Meanwhile, Huberty’s HB 907 was signed by Abbott on June 14, which increases the maximum registration fee for sand mining operators and increases the penalty for APOs who do not follow Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulations. Huberty’s other sand-mining bill, HB 909, would have required the TCEQ to adopt best-management practices for APOs to model. It stalled in the session.

However, TCEQ Media Relations Specialist Andrew Keese said via email the agency has been working with Abbott’s and Huberty’s offices on the effects of APOs since Hurricane Harvey. Keese said the TCEQ already has some best management practices in place, but the agency will work with officials and interested parties to refine the practices.

Huberty said management practices could include requiring APOs to plant vegetation after abandoning a mining site and increasing setbacks from the flood plains.

“You don’t need to pass laws to make things happen in the state of Texas,” Huberty said.
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Centennial Elementary
Humble ISD celebrates 100th anniversary with special naming of Elementary School No. 29

The Harris County Common School District 50 was compiled into Humble ISD by the Texas legislature in February 1919.

Boatman Construction of Tomball received the family-owned Small Business of the Year award from Lone Star College-Small Business Development Center. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College announces 6 local Small Business of the Year awards at ceremony in The Woodlands

The Lone Star College Small Business Development Center presented awards to six north Houston-area local businesses at a Nov. 13 luncheon.

In a split 3-2 vote, the Harris County Commissioners Court passed a nonbinding resolution in favor of legislation requiring universal background checks for all Texas firearm sales, including those involving an unlicensed gun dealer and stranger-to-stranger gun sales, at its Nov. 12 meeting. (Courtesy Fotolia)
In split vote, Harris County approves resolution supporting universal background checks for all Texas firearm sales

The nonbinding resolution's passing demonstrated the court's support of legislation requiring universal background checks for all gun sales in the state, including those involving an unlicensed gun dealer and stranger-to-stranger gun sales.

Ahead of the Dec. 14 mayoral runoff election for the city of Houston, Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman announced plans Nov. 12 to move the county’s ballot box collection center to a more centralized location in hopes of expediting election result returns. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County clerk to move ballot box collection center to centralized location in effort to expedite election result returns

Ahead of the Dec. 14 mayoral runoff election for the city of Houston, Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman announced plans Nov. 12 to move the county’s ballot box collection center to a more centralized location in hopes of expediting election result returns.

A dog receives treatment at Montgomery County Animal Shelter's new wellness clinic.
Montogmery County Animal Shelter opens wellness clinic

The clinic's purpose is to provide basic pet care and vaccines at a low cost.

Kingwood High School flood barriers
Kingwood High School to transform into ‘inverse aquarium’ to prevent future flooding

At the Nov. 12 school board meeting, architectural firm PBK Architects presented the preliminary design plans for the $30 million flood barrier project.

One of the major themes found in the report was a nearly 24-year range in average lifespan that varied across the county from as low as 65 years to as high as 89 years. According to the report, the Memorial/Bear Creek area has the highest average lifespan, while the East Little York/Settegast area has the lowest. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)
Benchmark study reveals 24-year lifespan variance, high obesity rates and limited health care access across Harris County

A study by Harris County Public Health found life expectancy in Harris County alone varies by nearly 24 years depending on where a resident lives.

Montgomery County commissioners appointed 10 members to the county's new ethics commission at their Nov. 12 regular meeting.
Community Impact Newspaper staff
Montgomery County commissioners approve 10 members for new county ethics commission

Funding for two county flood planning initiatives was also approved at the couty's Nov. 12 meeting.

Snow fell at the Tomball Museum Center in early December 2017 (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Greater Houston area to experience cold front Nov. 11-13; temperature could reach freezing point

The front is not expected to affect travel because the ground is too warm for precipitation to stick.

Drivers on the Grand Parkway will pay higher tolls come Jan. 1, 2020. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Tolls to increase Jan. 1 on the Grand Parkway

Drivers on the Grand Parkway will see toll rates increase 2% on Jan. 1, 2020.

transportation updates
Harris County Precinct 4 will soon study feasibility of Hamblen Road realignment

The project aims to expand the road from two to four lanes, realign the road from its current route through Edgewater Park to meet at Sorters McClellan Road, and create a bridge over the Union Pacific Corp. railroad.

transportation
Bidding for Lockwood Road expansion project began in early November

The project between Harris County and McCord Development will expand Lockwood Road between Beltway 8 and the Union Pacific Corp. railroad from a two to four lanes.

Back to top