Tax rate cut, future of $1.8M mounted patrols among topics at The Woodlands budget meetings

The Woodlands Township board of directors
The Woodlands Township board of directors concluded budget workshop meetings Aug. 6. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

The Woodlands Township board of directors concluded budget workshop meetings Aug. 6. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

Budget meetings for fiscal year 2020-21 began Aug. 3 in The Woodlands Township, where the board of directors arrived at a proposed tax rate midway through the week. Fiscal years in The Woodlands run from January to December.

The proposed tax rate of $0.2231 per $100 valuation is the effective tax rate, or the rate needed to generate the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year. The current tax rate for FY 2019-20 is $0.2240 per $100 valuation. Each cent of the tax rate represents $2.11 million, according to information from the township.

As part of the discussion, the board of directors evaluated requests from various departments and discussed the future of several services in the township.

Alpha & Omega Mounted Patrol

The board on Aug. 5-6 addressed additional needs in the The Woodlands Fire Department, the parks department, law enforcement and the perceived need for the contracted mounted patrol services provided by Alpha & Omega Mounted Patrol in areas such as The Woodlands Mall.


Board members took varying stances on the patrol services, with some advocating for the sense of security the patrol brings and others saying that the $1.78 million in funds allocated for the contract could be more efficiently used elsewhere.

“I don’t see, in these challenging times, removing something that is an asset and a deterrent to crime in our community,” Director Ann Snyder said during the Aug. 5 meeting.

Benefits of the mounted patrol service cited by board members include their performing car alarm checks, assisting law enforcement and providing a community security presence as well as crowd control.

Board discussion also touched on what other technologies and methods could be available to provide added security. The possibility of adding other law enforcement officers or park rangers instead of continuing the mounted service was also floated.

“When I was in the military in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, we had individuals that patrols the perimeter fence 24/7, and today, they use drones to do that,” Director Bob Milner said in the Aug. 5 meeting. “So I believe that there are some opportunities here to think about what the future may look like.”

The discussion continued Aug. 6, and the board ultimately decided that while the money was in the budget for the service, the details of the contract could be worked out at a later date and changed if needed. The funds could be used for other services, such as additional law enforcement officers, if that seemed a more effective use of the funds, they said.

"No one wants to compromise safety," Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said. "It’s not an issue of defunding anything. It’s looking at ways we can enhance the security in areas where we think there are tools that can help us with some of the items that occupy a considerable amount of A&O’s time."

Departmental needs, budget initiatives

In its Aug. 5 discussions, the board approved budget initiatives to increase the sales tax reserve by 5% to 10% in each budget cycle and to retire a portion of callable debt, among other items.

The board did not approve initiatives for several fire department requests for additional staff.

Several proposed positions were not approved Aug. 5, including proposals for a battalion chief with a salary of about $155,000; a fire department lieutenant with a $129,000 salary; converting a part-time fire specialist to full-time with a $47,250 salary increase; and similarly converting a fire fleet technician with a $40,000 increase.

"I think it's a time to figure out a way to do more with a little less," Milner said.

Chair Gordy Bunch said that although Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds may be available for some costs, they cannot support long-term, ongoing expenses.

“I share that with the fire chief to make sure he understood,” he said. “We love you; [we] want to be as supportive as we can; but when you’re looking at a 3.5% revenue [cap], if you extrapolate these out, it paints a very different picture.”

On Aug. 6, the board also discussed a need for $14.1 million worth of work to fire department facilities, including reconstruction Station No. 5 and improving Stations Nos. 3 and 4.

However, those would likely need to be included in a future bond issue, Bunch said.

Additionally, the board approved using $200,000 in the budget that had been slated for law enforcement pay increases to go toward other staff and firefighter pay increases. The law enforcement raises for Montgomery County Sheriff's Office personnel will not be implemented because the county did not increase those salaries as expected, township officials said. Bunch proposed those funds instead go toward raises for local staff and for firefighters.

Because the proposed tax rate is also the effective tax rate, the board will not need to hold a public hearing on it and can adopt it at the next regular board meeting Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. Meetings are currently being held via video conference.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


MOST RECENT

The third-quarter law enforcement report was presented to The Woodlands Township board Oct. 27. (Ally Bolender/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands' third-quarter law enforcement report shows rise in some crimes in September

The month with the lowest occurrence of crimes of note so far this year was June with 289, according to the report.

ExxonMobil has held office space at Hughes Landing in The Woodlands. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: ExxonMobil to bring Hughes Landing employees back to Spring location; Dave's Hot Chicken to open in Plano and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 27.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg outlines the current domestic violence situation in the county during an Oct. 27 web panel. (Community Impact Newspaper via Harris County District Attorney's Office)
Harris County District Attorney's Office outlines plan to combat domestic violence

To date, 10,888 domestic violence assault cases have been filed so far in 2021.

Harris County residents with certain disabilities will now have better access to potentially life-saving information, thanks to a new accessible alert system launched by The Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Oct. 26. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
Ready Harris rolls out new accessible alert system

Known as the Ready Harris Accessible Alert System, the new program will provide accessible alerts, warnings and preparedness information to individuals who are deaf, blind, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or low vision.

Early voting is underway for the incorporation election in The Woodlands, and Election Day is Nov. 2. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
The Woodlands-area groups, officials weigh in on incorporation before Nov. 2 vote

Kevin Brady was among those offering a public statement on a position concerning incorporation.

After being closed to the public for the 2020 season, the Houston Repertoire Ballet is returning to Tomball for its 22nd annual performance of "The Nutcracker," the nonprofit organization announced in an Oct. 25 release. (Courtesy Houston Repertoire Ballet)
Houston Repertoire Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' to return Dec. 3-5

After being closed to the public for the 2020 season, the Houston Repertoire Ballet is returning to Tomball.

ExxonMobil has held office space at Hughes Landing in The Woodlands. (Courtesy The Howard Hughes Corp.)
ExxonMobil confirms it is bringing Hughes Landing employees back to Spring location

The energy company previously moved employees to The Woodlands to satisfy a tax abatement requirement.

Montgomery County needs to approve new precinct maps by Nov. 12 as part of the redistricting process. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County to redistrict commissioner precincts following initial assessment

Following the release of the 2020 U.S. Census, a legal firm that contracted with the county recommended commissioner precincts be redrawn to reflect Montgomery County's growth.

From left, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Wayne Young, CEO of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis announced a new community-initiated mental health care project during a press conference Oct. 26. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
Harris County officials unveil new three-year $8.93M community-initiated mental health care initiative

The community care model will focus on 10 ZIP codes totaling about 300,000 residents that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and suicide, and that have a lower utilization of behavioral health care services, by providing mental health education and training to members of the community.

Harris County Deputy Kareem Atkins was honored by Harris County commissioners on Oct. 26. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County commissioners designate Oct. 25 as 'Deputy Kareem Atkins Day'

“Deputy Kareem Atkins Day” will be celebrated annually to recognize Atkins' heroism and service, Judge Lina Hidalgo said at the court’s Oct. 26 regular meeting. According to Hidalgo, Atkins was the first Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office deputy to be fatally shot.

A judge granted a temporary restraining order against Magnolia ISD, pausing enforcement of its gender-based hair length policy. (Community Impact staff)
Judge grants temporary restraining order against enforcement of Magnolia ISD's gender-based hair policy

The temporary restraining order allows students who had been disciplined for their hair length to return to regular classes.