The Woodlands' budget calendar runs from January to December. The adopted tax rate is below the no-new-revenue rate of $0.1964 per $100 assessment that would bring in the same amount of revenue as the previous year, and it is below the $0.1875 initially proposed. The tax rate represents a 17.08% drop from the 2022 rate of $0.2231 per $100 assessment.
Law enforcement comprises $14.7 million of the 2023 budget, of which about $10 million funds at least 92 Montgomery County officer contracts, according to discussion at the meeting. The Woodlands also contracts with Harris County for law enforcement, and it added a 13th officer to that contract for 2023, according to meeting materials.
However, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court also included funding for 92 deputies in The Woodlands in its budget adopted Aug. 26. The Woodlands officials said as of Sept. 12 the county had not responded to an amended supplemental law enforcement agreement that would provide for the county to fund those contract costs.
A request for comment from the office of County Judge Mark Keough on the law enforcement contracts was not immediately returned, and the matter was not discussed or on the agenda for the Sept. 13 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting.
President and CEO Monique Sharp said the document was sent at the county's request.
“Aug. 19, at their request, we did email them a draft agreement, agreeing to the terms that they desired,” Sharp said. “To date, no acknowledgement of receipt of the email or reply has been received by the township.”
Because of this, the township also included funding for law enforcement in its budget, officials said.
“Unfortunately, it looks like the residents will be double taxed because there was no codifying of the agreement,” said Gordy Bunch, chair of The Woodlands Township board of directors, at the meeting.
Township officials said at the meeting they supported putting the contracts under the county umbrella, and the board approved a resolution requesting the county to come to an agreement regarding the funding.
“We are publicly in favor of what they offer, and we do want them to continue ... we just wish it had been prior to tonight,” Director Shelley Sekula-Gibbs said at the meeting.
Following the meeting, Vice Chair Bruce Rieser said if the county funds law enforcement costs in the 2023 budget year, the tax rate is set and cannot be amended. Under that scenario, The Woodlands would have excess revenue that would be used at the board's discretion in next year's budget sessions.
“What would probably happen ... is we would go ahead and accelerate some of the other capital spending that we might have spaced out over five years; you could pull that into three years,” Rieser said.
The board would need to come to a determination of what to do with the funds if they are not used for the contracts, Sharp said.
Among the other elements of the township budget discussed at the special meeting Sept. 12 were reallocation of reserves, absorbing the $15.3 million incorporation reserve fund and a $5.2 million Grogans Mill Road Property Reserve fund into other reserves, including increasing the operating reserve from 20% to 25%.
Property tax revenue in 2023 is projected to be $46.7 million, $2 million below the 2022 forecast for property tax revenue, Sharp said.
Editor's note: Comments by Bruce Rieser were edited for clarification to indicate the timeframes being discussed.