Friendswood to hold sales tax elections

Friendswood to hold sales tax elections Friendswood to hold sales tax elections[/caption]

Following months of passionate debate, the Friendswood City Council called for a pair of sales tax elections to be placed on the May ballot at its Feb. 1 meeting. Voters will decide on sales tax increases for street maintenance and economic development.

The ballot will feature two measures, one adding 3/8 of a cent to sales tax for street maintenance and repair and one increasing sales tax by 1/8 of a cent for economic development in the downtown district.

An ordinance to put a half-cent sales tax increase for street maintenance failed 4-3 before the council approved the two ballot measures. Council members Jim Hill, Patrick McGinnis and John Scott voted in favor of the additional sales tax revenue going entirely toward road repair.

“Every year at budget [discussions] for the last four or five years, streets always come in last,” Hill said. [polldaddy poll=9313876]

Hill said the additional revenue for street maintenance from sales tax would free up money in the budget for the city to aid downtown development.

“You want 25 percent of the [sales tax] money for 1 percent of the city,” he said. “I just don’t think that’s right. We have to look at the entire city.”

Scott said street maintenance funding decreased annually since the mid-1990s until he was elected in 2011.

“The road budget money had been mismanaged for over a decade,” he said. “In that time frame the city grew from 22,000 people to almost 40,000. The demand on the roads got significantly worse.”

While Council Member Billy Enochs said he hoped to dedicate a half-cent of sales tax toward road maintenance, he said he did not think voters would support it. Instead, he said the only additional funding for streets would come if the separate 1/8 cent went toward economic development. That measure was backed by the Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association citizen group, who had more than 10 members speak during the meeting’s public comment.

“Our streets are behind,” Enochs said. “We need this for the streets. What we cannot do is not draw anything for the streets, so begrudgingly, I’m not going to support the half-cent sales tax.”

Enochs also noted four sales tax elections failed between 1992 and 2002.

Mayor Kevin Holland echoed Enochs’ sentiments.

“I’d like to take it all and put it on our streets,” he said. “But I don’t think its going to pass [voters], so I’ll take 3/8 [of a cent].”

Carl Gustafson, who voted in favor of the 1/8-cent for economic development, said funding for downtown will help promote commercial development. The city has already taken steps—such as drainage improvement projects and business-friendly ordinances—to improve the attractiveness of the district, he said.

“This is just the next logical step in the process,” he said. “It’s building upon everything that’s been done up to this point over the years. It’s adding to your legacy and work and making sure it doesn’t go to waste.”