The Woodlands Township responds to independent critiques of incorporation study

The Woodlands Township issued a statement on its incorporation financial model on Sept. 27. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Woodlands Township issued a statement on its incorporation financial model on Sept. 27. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Woodlands Township issued a statement on its incorporation financial model on Sept. 27. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)

In a Sept. 27 news release and over several public meetings, The Woodlands Township officials have responded to information in several independent, commissioned reports issued in August and September critiquing its incorporation study.

On Nov. 2, The Woodlands Township residents will vote on whether to incorporate into a city.

The township's incorporation study conducted by The Novak Consulting Group, now Raftelis, has been the target of several reports commissioned by The Howard Hughes Corp. One report looks at financial information in the study, and a second looks at the law enforcement portion of the study. The consultants commissioned by Howard Hughes said their analysis showed the incorporation financial model underfunded certain needs in a future city.

In a Sept. 27 statement, township officials called the commissioned reports incomplete and potentially misleading, and they said they were not aware of attempts by the authors of the commissioned reports to reach out to the township for updated information before preparing the critiques.

"The commissioned reports grossly understate the funding available in The Woodlands Township Incorporation Model," said Gordy Bunch, chair of The Woodlands Township board of directors, in a statement. "This is why the board believes it is important to provide unambiguous, factual information so residents can make a fully informed decision."

The township's assistant general manager for finance and administration, Monique Sharp, addressed some of the information in the commissioned reports at the Sept. 16 board meeting and in questions from audience members at the Sept. 23 incorporation information forum.

A summary of the disputed points was released by the township in a statement Sept. 27. The township included the following statements.

  • A claim by the authors of the law enforcement critique that law enforcement was underfunded by $7.7 million in the financial model was based on analyzing a different model than the one approved by the township's board of directors.

  • The consultants' critique did not take into account $5.9 million in the township's base budget when considering its budget for public works.

  • The consultant did not include $2.5 million plus an additional $1.25 million budgeted by the township annually for rehabilitation of concrete and asphalt streets.

  • The amount the commissioned consultant stated for the incorporation reserve balance in the year 2025 was $12.2 million below the actual number, according to township records.

  • The amount the consultant said was allocated for the township's contracted law enforcement personnel was understated by $11.4 million.

  • Additional funds for township direct law enforcement personnel after incorporation were understated by $4.8 million to $7.3 million.

  • The consultants understated the township's funding for law enforcement vehicles by $6.1 million.

In total, township officials said the consultant preparing the financial critique was off by $28.3 million plus $1.25 million per year for the overall incorporation model. Officials said the critique of the law enforcement model was off by $22.3 million to $24.8 million. Township officials have said updated information has been presented publicly since the original incorporation financial model draft report was published in May 2020.

Updated financial information for the incorporation model taking into account information available in August of this year was provided in the township's Aug. 13 meeting.

In addition to examining numbers in the incorporation financial model, the authors of the law enforcement critique said they did not see sufficient justification for establishing a new police department. The Woodlands currently contracts with Montgomery and Harris counties for law enforcement. Aside from financial numbers, the critique also states it did not find reference to items such as liability claim coverage, collective bargaining or certain other operational services within the draft report dated May 15, 2020.

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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