Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough talks property taxes, transportation bond at State of the County address

The Montgomery County judge gave the State of the County address May 9.

The Montgomery County judge gave the State of the County address May 9.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough gave the State of the County address May 9 at The Pulse luncheon, a Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce event at the Lone Star Convention Center.

Keough said the county is in the midst of its budget season and mentioned transportation projects and a possible upcoming road bond along with bills of interest in the Legislature. He said the county has added 140,000 residents since 2000 and is expecting to reach 600,000 in population by 2020.

"When you think about the uniqueness of the county, 82% of the population are living in unincorporated areas—146,000 residents rely solely on Montgomery County for their law enforcement, roads, bridges and essential services every day," Keough said. "Think about the influx of homes with economic growth—did you know 1,800 new residents a month move to Montgomery County and call it home? That's unbelievable."

He said Hwy. 380 used to be a decompressing drive for him through the woods—until one day, an elementary school popped up, and then a middle school.

"And lo and behold a sign—The Woodlands Hills," Keough said. "I talked to those guys ... 5,200 homes. It's unbelievable when you think about it."

Property taxes

He mentioned the school districts have high test scores and graduation rates, making the area desirable, but the area is also affected by rising property taxes.

"Regardless of whether it has to do with rate, whether it has to do with appraisals or whatever drives the property tax, the state wants to change it to a rollback rate," Keough said. "Montgomery County residents are saying wait ... property taxes have to do with appraisal and appraisal reform. Who does not want their home to accelerate in value? Everybody wants that."

He said although there is a 10% cap on residential property appraisal increases year over year, there is no constitutional cap for businesses.

"The appraisal district can raise your business [rates] to what they believe it is, based on what businesses sell, and that's OK," Keough said. "[But] it has increased so much you almost can't believe it: 60-70%, sometimes even more—there's no cap on that."

Keough went to Austin to fight to amend the bills.

"I stood on the house floor and argued for your business in the 85th session," Keough said. "It really came down to the last day. We argued for this position for the businesses to get a break, and at least put a cap on it. ... I apologize, we couldn't get it done. We couldn't get an amendment on the bill through the house."

Keough said he will take this into account during this summer's county budget sessions.

"Overall, if we could stay or decrease where we're at this year, it's a huge victory for us all," Keough said. "If the state isn't going to make any adjustments on how they tax property ... the only place we can find any opportunity at all is keeping our expenses low."

Keough said bad habits are developed in good times, and good habits are developed in bad times.

"We can't save a million dollars, but we can save a dollar a million times," Keough said.

Transportation

As for transportation, Keough said one of the county's main challenges is keeping up with the growth in terms of roads and bridges, but projects such as Hwy. 249 and FM 1488, along with road widenings in The Woodlands, are all underway as planned.

"Our commissioners are working on studies for [their districts], so we're building some momentum toward some things," Keough said. "Once all [those studies] take place, I think there will be some road bonds."

He said the county will carefully look at every possible way to fund the development of roads.

"Statistics show us 30% of people there are just going through the area. We're looking at studies that have to do with alternate routes that would run parallel to [Hwy. 105 and I-45 along with other major roads], routes that would go all the way across the county," Keough said. "Once we have that study, we then are able to say, 'OK, this is what it's going to cost, and how are we going to go about getting the money?' I really can't say there isn't some form of bond in the future."

His plan to earn voter approval for a potential future road bond includes a number of town hall meetings, but Keough could not set a time frame for the bond.
By Jules Rogers
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jules Rogers has been covering community journalism and urban trade news since 2014. She moved to Houston in June 2018 to become an editor with Community Impact Newspaper after four years of reporting for various newspapers affiliated with the Portland Tribune in Oregon, including two years at the Portland Business Tribune. Before that, Jules spent time reporting for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Southern Oregon. Her favorite beats to cover are business, economic development and urban planning.


MOST RECENT

Americans spent 44% more shopping on websites, including Amazon, in 2020 than in 2019. (Courtesy Amazon)
Surge in online shopping strains Houston’s distribution channels

Online spending in the U.S. was up 44% from 2019 to 2020, and transportation expert Bill Eisele said this uptick has put a strain on the region’s transportation system.

According to county officials, 40% of the $125 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Harvey took place within Harris County. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas General Land Office says it is 'not feasible' to request $750M in federal flood aid within 30 days

Houston-area officials ask for 30-day-dealine on the Texas General Land Office's formal request for $750 million in federal flood aid funding, but GLO says it is not possible.

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, is conducting a subsidence study focused on Montgomery County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Phase 2 of subsidence study in Montgomery County underway

The study will help guide groundwater policy decisions, LSGCD says.

The Atascocita Fire Department is preparing for the construction of a new fire station that will replace the existing station at 4000 Atascocita Road, Humble. (Rendering courtesy of the Atascocita Fire Department)
Atascocita Fire Department preps for construction of new station

According to Atascocita Fire Department Chief Mike Mulligan, the move is part of a multiphase project that will include the build-out of temporary living quarters at the department's maintenance shop located at Rustic Timbers Drive and Will Clayton Parkway in Humble.

Texas Central has signed a $16 billion contract with Webuild to lead the civil construction team that will build the train. (Rendering courtesy Texas Central)
Texas Central signs $16B construction contract for high-speed rail project

Texas Central could be one step closer to starting construction.

Humble ISD educates more than 45,000 students. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Humble ISD looks to hire 160 middle, high school positions at June job fairs

The fair is open to all qualified candidates who are encouraged to bring a resume, and registration is not required.

Russ Poppe, the Harris County Flood Control District executive director, will officially step down July 2 after nearly fifteen years in the position. (Courtesy Harris County Flood Control District)
Executive Director Russ Poppe announces resignation from Harris County Flood Control District

Harris County Flood Control District Executive Director Russ Poppe announced his resignation June 11.

Robert Mock headshot
Houston names new emergency center director

The center manages 911 calls and other emergency communications.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued a call for Texans to conserve energy June 14. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT asks Texans to conserve energy with generation outages 2.5 times higher than normal

"This is unusual for this early in the summer season," said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT vice president of grid planning and operations, in a news release.

League City's Helen Hall Library History Club hosted an event related to Juneteenth on June 7. The holiday honors Union Gen. Gordon Granger coming to Galveston in 1865 to announce the liberation of enslaved people in Texas. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
Celebrate Juneteenth in Galveston with a movie screening, parade and more on June 17, 19

The Juneteenth Legacy Project, which aims to recontextualize the day and properly communicate its story and relevance, is hosting or advertising numerous events over the course of the holiday weekend.

Missouri City resident Jackie Ward became the chief nursing officer at Texas Children’s Hospital in January. (Photo by Michael Carr Photography, graphic by Chase Brooks/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Jackie Ward, Texas Children's Hospital chief nursing officer, discusses career, nursing during COVID-19

Prior to becoming chief nursing officer, Missouri City resident Jackie Ward worked as an oncology nurse and in a variety of leadership roles at Texas Children's Hospital.

The Montgomery County Animal Shelter took in over 660 animals since June 1. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Montgomery County Animal Shelter at 'critical capacity point'

The shelter is waiving adoption fees, and all adoptable pets have been vaccinated, dewormed, microchipped and spayed or neutered.