For the first time in nearly 10 years, Montgomery County commissioners are working on building a new road and infrastructure bond referendum to address an estimated $1.5 billion in project needs across the county.

In a special workshop on April 23 and again on May 7, members of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court debated a number of details surrounding a bond election, including whether it should go on the Nov. 5 presidential election ballot or be pushed back to May 2025.

Some of the major projects identified include Rayford Road from I-45 to the Grand Parkway and infrastructure improvements along the east side of I-45; as well as construction of a new animal shelter and county courthouse.

The breakdown

Montgomery County commissioners agreed to pursue a new bond effort nearly 10 years after the last county bond election. Commissioners said the new bond is necessary due to a number of projects needed, such as a new animal shelter, and road projects in precincts 1 and 2.

“We have other infrastructure issues as we’re growing. We’re getting more law enforcement. We need all these other things that are going to come into play,” County Judge Mark Keough said.

According to preliminary estimates, the county needs roughly $1.5 billion in projects. Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley encouraged commissioners to only advocate for the amount of funds they could reasonably spend within four to five years.

“I’d give anything if we could do a $1 billion bond, but we can’t,” Riley said. “There’s no way we’d be able to do that.”

John Robuck—managing adviser at BOK Financial, the county’s bond advisory firm—said inflation has caused the cost of construction to rise, and it would take roughly two months after a bond election for the county to receive funds.

What are the options?

County commissioners first brought up the prospect of a bond election at the April 9 meeting after receiving projections from BOK Financial.

“We’re looking at ... $1 million a mile for engineering estimates and right of way and utilities, and right now [it’s] estimated about $8 million per mile for construction,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Matt Gray said. “We’re dealing with construction escalation daily on top of that.”

Bond projections provided by Robuck outlined potentials for a bond measure ranging from $165 million to $1 billion, including the tax rate impacts expected by the bond at several projected amounts. The projections were all based on an estimated property growth rate of 5% in Montgomery County, Robuck said. However, he said as of April 30 the county has a projected growth rate of 13.2%, which is subject to change and likely to decrease. A higher growth rate could potentially lessen the tax rate burden with larger bond issues, he said.
Looking back

The last voter-approved bond issue in Montgomery County was passed in 2015 for $280 million. Prior to the 2015 bond, a $350 million bond package was sent to voters in May 2014. It failed due to community opposition to several projects, such as the Woodlands Parkway extension to Dobbin-Huffsmith Road in Magnolia, according to previous Community Impact reporting.

Immediately following the 2015 bond passage, a legal battle ensued regarding the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act, which dictates a quorum of a government body cannot meet or discuss business without proper notice. The legal battle involved three members of the court, including Riley. The case was dismissed in 2019 due to TOMA being deemed unconstitutional by the Texas Supreme Court.

Precinct 2 received $64 million in 2015 bond funds. Road projects within the precinct funded with that money include the construction of Grand Pines Drive in southwest Precinct 2 and the widening of Nichols Sawmill Road.

At the April 23 Commissioners Court workshop meeting, Riley outlined an estimated $90 million in projects. A full list has yet to be presented; however, all commissioners stated they had a project list ready as soon as an amount for the bond is determined, per prior reporting.

In their own words

  • “Anything that can be done to improve the traffic problem in and around the city would be greatly appreciated.” —Don Doering, Magnolia city administrator
  • “[If] we wait till we get through with our budget and get our true [property tax growth] numbers, then we’ll know what we can ask for.” —Charlie Riley, Precinct 2 commissioner
  • “At the end of the day, we’ve got to move forward. However we do that, we have to move.” —Mark Keough, Montgomery County judge
  • “If we decide we want to spread [the bond] out ... it’ll actually lower the tax rate [impact]. This is just a conservative starting point.” —John Robuck, managing advisor, BOK Financial

Stay tuned

Riley said he believes the county should consider separating the bond issue into different propositions. This would allow the county to use bonds for major infrastructure projects, such as:

  • Animal shelter rebuild
  • Montgomery County Courthouse rebuild
  • Montgomery County Tax Office expansion

Riley and Gray both said they were concerned about placing a bond election on an already large ballot, and they advocated for holding a bond election in May 2025.

The county will continue to hold bond workshops throughout the year, and it will have until Aug. 19 to call a bond election for the Nov. 5 ballot.