The Woodlands Township board swears in members, discusses $6.1M in pending CARES Act funding requests

Four members of The Woodlands Township board of directors were sworn in Nov. 18. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)
Four members of The Woodlands Township board of directors were sworn in Nov. 18. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

Four members of The Woodlands Township board of directors were sworn in Nov. 18. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

The Woodlands Township board of directors began its Nov. 18 meeting by swearing in returning directors, all of whom were elected to the posts in the Nov. 3 election. Gordy Bunch, Jason J. Nelson and Bruce Rieser won the seats in contested elections for Positions 1, 2 and 4, while John Anthony Brown was uncontested in Position 3.

Board members voted on officer positions for the upcoming year, and Bunch, Rieser and Brown will remain chair, vice chair and treasurer, respectively. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was chosen as secretary, replacing Ann Snyder, who previously held the position.

Township officials said they were awaiting authorization for COVID-19 reimbursement requests the township has made from Montgomery County.

The Woodlands Township has submitted a request for the full amount of funding it calculated it could receive under a per capita allocation in federal COVID-19 relief funding from Montgomery County, $5.8 million, although officials said only $315,000 of its expenses meet the conditions the county has set for reimbursement. A separate request for $315,000 in itemized expenses was also sent, officials said.

Most of the residents of The Woodlands Township—about 110,000—reside in Montgomery County, but about 13,000 live in Harris County. However, the township was able to request $715,000 in COVID-19 relief funds through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act from Harris County—or $55 per capita—while only $315,000 of township expenses met Montgomery County requirements, officials said.

On Nov. 17, Montgomery County slated a portion of its $105 million in CARES Act funds for use by public school districts—a total of about $34 million, or $300 per student for the six school districts located entirely within Montgomery County. Other uses that have been authorized by the county include public safety expenditures, money for supplies for eventual vaccine distribution and funds to convert the Lone Star Convention Center for courtroom use.

Commissioners have stated they have concerns about which uses of CARES Act funds will be deemed appropriate by the U.S. Treasury.

Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said in a Nov. 12 phone interview he believes COVID-19 aid falls mainly within the county's services.

"Generally speaking, our county has taken the position of not reallocating that to the cities because the county is the one that is ultimately responsible for providing those types of [COVID-19-related] services," he said.

Todd Stephens, intergovernmental relations manager for The Woodlands Township, said at the Nov. 18 meeting that to the best of his knowledge, Montgomery County is an exception in how counties are distributing the funds.

"On the direct recipient counties, those counties that receive their money directly from [the U.S.] Treasury, there are two pots—large populations of 500,000 or more and the rest to the state to be distributed to smaller jurisdictions," Stephens said. "My understanding is that Montgomery is the only one that hasn’t distributed it on a per capita basis to local entities within the county."

Stephens said it remains to be seen whether future federal stimulus packages could include language that will change how funds are distributed if they are approved.

"Congress, in their most recent stimulus negotiations, actually had a provision included in the stimulus that would incentivize ... localities or states that weren’t providing dollars to their lower jurisdictions to do so by allowing them to use some of their funds to also take care of budget shortfalls that resulted from COVID as well," Stephens said. "Obviously, that negotiation is still in play."
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.


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