Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert discussed several highlights, concerns and future goals on the horizon for the growing area during the State of the County presentation March 29.

The county, with a population of 765,000 as of June 30, has experienced four declared presidential emergencies in the last three years, Hebert said.

"We came through them relatively unscathed, and it hasn't slowed down the growth of this county at all," Hebert said.

1) Hurricane Harvey Recovery
Fort Bend County received 22,800 registrations for individual assistance as a result of Hurricane Harvey, Hebert said. Of those, approximately 6,800 were for flooded homes, and the rest were for cars and other non-home items.

The county has identified 15 projects for the government to fund—one of which is erosion control in the vicinity of New Territory in Sugar Land, Hebert said. To fund these projects, the county has requested $88 million, Hebert said.

So far, about half of homes damaged during Harvey have been fully repaired, Hebert said.

2) Finances
Fort Bend County is currently operating on its adopted 2018 budget of $365.5 million—an increase from a budget of $346.3 million in 2017. The county has consistently decreased its tax rate in the last couple of decades with a current rate of $0.4690—down from $065700 in 1994, Hebert said.

3) Mobility
The county has several mobility projects planned, and several projects were completed in 2017 to address mobility needs, Hebert said.

Construction on Bellaire Boulevard, Spring Green Boulevard Segment 2, Willie Melton Boulevard, Chimney Rock Road, Katy Gaston Road Segment 2 and West Airport Road were all completed in 2017, Hebert said.

Some ongoing projects include the construction of FM 1093 Phase IIA and Phase IIB, which will run from east of FM 1463 to James Lane west of Fulshear once both portions are completed. Each phase will cost approximately $20 million. Phase IIA is slated to be complete by March 2019, and Phase IIB is slated to be complete by December 2019, Hebert said.

Crabb River Road will also be under construction beginning in August, and construction at Hwy. 99 and Harlem Road is set to be complete in April. Williams Way Boulevard construction from Hwy. 59 to FM 762 will also wrap up in October.

4) Facilities
Fort Bend County recently expanded its Justice Center and opened the Sienna Annex, housing offices for Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage, Tax Assessor-Collector Patsy Schultz, County Clerk Laura Richard and Precinct 2 Constable Gary Majors.

Major projects under construction this year include the sheriff's administration office, a transportation center, an animal services facility expansion and a medical examiner office.

5) Legislative concerns
The main legislative concerns continue to be about property taxes and public school funding, Hebert said.

Restructuring the financing for public education could result in lower property taxes, Hebert said. If the state had increased its share to be a 50/50 partner in funding schools from 2016-19, local school property taxes could have been reduced by more than $17 billion, Hebert said.

6) Future goals
County officials are looking to adopt a balanced fiscal year 2019 budget without a tax rate increase, Hebert said. Hebert also hopes to reach a legislative resolution regarding the revenue caps issue that benefits tax payers without penalizing local governments.

A top priority is transitioning 2017 bond projects into right of way acquisition, design and construction schedules, Hebert said. The county will also begin initial planning for a future facilities bond election that may include the expansion and renovation of the Fort Bend Juvenile Detention Center, Emergency Operations Center and multipurpose facility at the county fairgrounds, among other projects, Hebert said.