Jersey Village budget funds flood study, infrastructure

Jersey Village budget funds flood study, infrastructureThe city of Jersey Village has taken the first steps on comprehensive plan initiatives, infrastructure improvements and efforts to reduce flooding within city limits.

These projects were among the expenses in the fiscal year 2016-17 city budget, unanimously approved by Jersey Village City Council at the Sept. 19 meeting. The council was highly attuned to resident concerns—specifically with regard to flood mitigation and maintaining the city’s aesthetic appeal—both of which were reflected in the budget, Mayor Justin Ray said.

“Council agreed with many in the community that certain projects should be postponed to free up resources for flood study activities,” he said. “The approved budget pushed back over $1 million worth of expenditures in order to accommodate flood mitigation activities and maintain a healthy city fund balance.”

General fund revenue is projected to be $12.3 million this year, while expenses are projected at $11.1 million. The difference will go into the city’s reserves.

Although sales revenue was strong for the city in FY 2015-16, City Manager Jim Gray said sales and property tax revenue growth could flatten out over the next few years due in part to the effects of Hwy. 290 construction on local businesses.

“The Hwy. 290 expansion presents the possibility of a reduction in sales tax revenue and a short-term reduction in property tax revenue as businesses deal with the work going on around them,” Gray said. “We’re going to need to watch that closely to see in the future how we can deal with that.”

The city’s proposed property tax rate for the next year, which was set to be voted on at the Oct. 17 meeting, would remain at 74.25 cents per $100 valuation. The result of the vote was unknown as of press time.

Hwy. 290 construction effects

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Although the city’s sales tax revenue is trending upward in general, Gray noted a slight decrease in revenue over the last few months of FY 2015-16 compared to last year. However, he said at least 10 new businesses are planning to move into Jersey Village, which will have a positive effect on both property and sales tax revenue.

“[The decline] may be a short-term trend,” Gray said. “After we see [Hwy. 290] completed, we see our [revenue and expenditure] lines more in parallel like they have been in the past.”

City officials said they also expect to bring in roughly $200,000 less in property tax revenue in this year’s budget compared to last year.

“The revenue hits we’re seeing right now are related to the loss of Daikin [Industries],” Gray said. “We don’t know if that [loss] will be maintained in the coming years or, as lease space fills back up, if we’ll see those numbers go back up.”

The largest capital improvement expenditure in this year’s budget is also related to Hwy. 290, Gray said. More than $3 million has been dedicated to acquiring right of way and paying for water lines and infrastructure relocation along the highway.

Gray said the city opted to move the utility lines farther back in anticipation of future Hwy. 290 expansions that could come 10-15 years down the line.

“By doing that, we’re having to pay more today than if we were to leave the [utility lines] in the state’s right of way,” he said. “We firmly believe that’s the best way for the city to ensure the expense does not overwhelm us in the future.”

Jersey Village budget funds flood study, infrastructureFlood study

Another expense in this year’s budget relates to a city-funded flood protection study. A $651,000 contract was awarded at the Sept. 19 meeting to Dannenbaum Engineering to conduct the study.

The study will take place in three phases over the next six months with the goal of identifying long-term flooding solutions for Jersey Village. The plan is the first step for the city to see what opportunities are available for future budgets, Gray said.

More than 200 homes flooded in Jersey Village on April 18 when rainfall caused White Oak Bayou to overflow in an event known as the Tax Day flood.

“This plan will be the start of trying to address the Tax Day flood,” he said. “There may be an opportunity for the city to fund those projects, and there may be items we can take to Harris County.”

The first phase—which involves data collection, assessing homes and soliciting public feedback—began with a public forum Oct. 18 at Jersey Village City Hall. The full scope of the project will involve analyzing tributaries, bypasses and structures within the White Oak Bayou watershed as well as identifying funding opportunities, Dannenbaum’s chief hydrologist Alejandro Flores said.

Jersey Village budget funds flood study, infrastructure“We will take everything on the table and look at it,” Flores said. “We will hear the input from citizens and will look into the exact elevation of every slab within the 100-year flood plain. We cannot leave anything out.”

Officials said the flood study will also involve an analysis of the city-run Jersey Meadow Golf Course, which some residents have suggested repurposing for flood protection.

“As I see it, the golf course is the last big piece of land in our watershed that could protect our town now and in the future,” resident Michael Brown said. “It seems to be a no-brainer to have a long-term plan that includes keeping it permanently green, but in a flood preventative way, not the flood additive fashion that it currently exists in.”

Ray and several council members said they were in favor of keeping Jersey Meadow as a golf course at the Sept. 19 meeting. All council members agreed they needed to see the research before making any decisions about the course.

“It’s a very attractive feature, and I think it’s one that sets us apart,” Ray said. “We have to take what we have and make it as attractive a feature as possible.”

Jersey Village budget funds flood study, infrastructureCapital improvements

City officials plan to take on several infrastructure improvement and beautification projects in this year’s budget that were prioritized in the city’s comprehensive plan that was adopted in February. Projects include $80,000 for repairs to police and fire department buildings, $925,000 for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant in the Castlebridge area and $55,000 for a city branding and landscaping master plan.

Several other infrastructure improvements have been identified for future budgets as well. The city maintains a capital improvement budget plan through 2020 that was updated with the FY 2016-17 budget.

The council has proposed funding $1.2 million for improvements to the city’s public works facility on Taylor Road in the FY 2017-18 budget. Meanwhile, $4.4 million is proposed to be spent on improvements to Jersey Village City Hall on Lakeview Drive over the course of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fiscal years.

“Jersey Village residents are proud of our community’s appearance and have expressed a desire to maintain it’s aesthetic appeal,” Ray said. “Even though we are a small community with limited resources, I am proud that we are aggressively tackling a flood mitigation strategy while building towards the future.”

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.