Editor's note: The story was updated with additional information on the incorporation scenario for a city public works department.
After reviewing the decisions it has made throughout the past year’s incorporation study, The Woodlands Township board of directors on Feb. 26 voted 5-1 to approve a provisional maximum initial tax rate that could be part of an incorporation vote later this year.
The study, conducted by The Novak Consulting Group, has resulted in the board choosing several scenarios for a potential future city such as a law enforcement and a public works plan. Those choices helped Novak to develop the maximum initial tax rate, which would be placed on the ballot if an incorporation election is held.
The rate was termed provisional by the board because it is subject to change before the Aug. 17 deadline to call for a November election.
The proposed maximum tax rate of $0.2862 per $100 assessed value is $0.0622 more than the township’s current tax rate, and it would represent an increase of $311 in the tax bill of a house valued at $500,000, according to the presentation by Josh Rauch, senior consultant with Novak.
Director Ann Snyder voted against the rate, stating she did not favor the public works plan included in the study,
“I’m not voting in support of the provisional tax rate for several reasons,” Snyder said. “As the board is aware I did not vote in favor of the public works plan that we adopted. I do not believe that the provisional fund provides adequate funds that we as residents expect and we as a board promise to maintain and deliver.”
Board of directors Chair Gordy Bunch disagreed, stating that the incorporation scenario for a city public works department is a higher amount than currently allocated for county services.
“To state a concern that we’re going to have a lower quality with a higher budget than the county can articulate doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
According to the Novak presentation, the incorporation study included a scenario in which public works had a $4.6 million annual operating expense in the second year as a city, and it would have a $10.2 million startup capital cost to be funded by incorporation reserves. According to the presentation, the projections also included annual costs of $1.25 million for pavement improvement, $50,000 for bridge deck maintenance and $200,000 for shoulder maintenance.
The board did not state the current annual cost of county public works services. Bunch said in an email the township was unable to obtain comprehensive historical data regarding maintenance costs for roadways in The Woodlands from Montgomery County.
Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said he also supported the maximum tax rate and the incorporation study plan as it has been formulated so far.
"I don’t have any problem standing behind these numbers," he said.
Novak will now use the provisional maximum initial tax rate as it prepares for the next phase of the study, which is to plan for community engagement in the upcoming months.