The Sugar Land City Council discussed potentially increasing the property tax rate over the next three years to fund the city’s General Obligation Bond project plan. At the council’s July 6 meeting, Director of Finance Jennifer Brown presented one possible plan that would include a $0.01 increase to the tax rate next year.

The GO Bond project plan was originally approved by voters in 2019, and at the time included a $0.03 tax rate increase in fiscal year 2020-21, with the projects collectively funded over a three year period. However, following the pandemic, Brown said they decided to instead spread that approved $0.03 over multiple fiscal years and extend the projects’ timelines further through until 2025.

An initial increase of $0.0045 has already been implemented this fiscal year, and Brown said the city is considering additionally raising taxes by $0.01 in both fiscal years 2021-22 and 2022-23, and then again by $0.0055 in fiscal year 2023-24.

At the City Council meeting, Mayor Joe Zimmerman proposed changing next year’s increase to $0.005.

“You still got oil and gas that’s flat on their back then you got other stuff that just hasn’t quite fully recovered, so taking a $0.01 increase right now with where I think the citizens of Sugar Land are, I’m not in support of that,” Zimmerman said.

A majority of the council supported the $0.01 increase, with Council Members William Ferguson, Jennifer Lane, Naushad Kermally and Suzanne Whatley expressing favor for it. Council Member Stewart Jacobson said he would prefer instead a $0.0085 increase, which Council Member Carol McCutcheon said at the meeting she would support.

Brown said the city’s budget will be filed by two weeks from the July 6 meeting, and that the finance department will then be able to let council know in the first week of August what the tax rate needs to be to support the GO Bond funding.

Drainage related projects in areas such as Riverbend and Sugar Creek are the majority under the GO Bond program. Other projects include those relating to public safety and facilities, inculding a new public safety training facility, along with street improvements.

Council Member William Ferguson said he would support the $0.01 raise if it kept drainage projects—which he said he sees as the highest priority for the city—from being delayed.

“I’m not even fearful of the $0.01,” Ferguson said. “I don’t know if I agree with the items pushed back. Right now, especially with the Noah’s Ark level of rain that we continue to get, on everybody’s tongue is drainage. ... If it’s drainage, I think we need to do it and right now it’s the season.”