AP NEWS

Township loses out on bike grant funding; sets budget workshop dates

March 29, 2019

Two bicycling improvement projects planned for The Woodlands won’t have the benefit of funding from the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

John Powers, The Woodlands Township’s assistant general manager for Community Services, gave a short presentation during The Woodlands Township Board of Directors meeting Wednesday on the township’s efforts to secure grant funding for two bicycling improvement projects. Neither project was chosen for funding by the Houston-Galveston Area Council.

“Two projects did not score high enough to get funding,” Powers reported. “There is a chance the two projects could be funded in the future.”

The two projects, detailed in several lengthy presentations to the board over the course of several meetings in late 2018, were part of the 2015 Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, which was developed for the township by consulting firm Jones and Carter.

The two projects were the College Park Drive Shared-Use Path project and the Safe Schools access project. Under the scoring criteria used by H-GAC for the Transportation Improvement Program Projects, neither project scored high enough to get funding, but did surpass a threshold that makes them eligible for a Texas Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School grant.

But, applying for that grant will not happen as expected, Power noted, due to township staff learning that the TxDOT grant in not available to projects that tried to get H-GAC funds under the TIP program.

Tentative date set for budget workshops

The township’s annual week of budget preparation workshops are normally scheduled for mid-August, with public hearings hosted a few weeks after the week-long meetings if necessary.

However, those plans could be impacted depending on whether property tax reform is passed by the Texas legislature in the near future, which if occurs would require cities across the state to do their budgets about two weeks earlier than normal, reported Monique Sharp, the township’s director of finance.

The board was given two options for scheduling the week of meetings, which is also when the township’s tax rate is set: one for the normal period per prior year’s timelines, which would be Aug. 12-16th, with potential dates for public hearings on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 and with a final approval of the budget in a special meeting on Sept. 12.

The second option was to schedule the week of meetings about two weeks earlier than normal, with the meetings starting on July 29 and continuing through Aug. 2, then having a public hearing on Aug. 14 with approve on Aug. 22.

The preference of the board was to keep the traditonal schedule, which was approved in a 4-0 vote with the ability to change the dates if the property tax reform is approved by the state.

“I would suggest we stick to the original dates,” said Director Brian Boniface. “And if we need to change it, we can change it.”

Shortest meeting of year

The board meeting Wednesday was the shortest meeting of the year for the township, with three board members absent and a light agenda featuring few actionable items and mainly consisting of several routine updates.

Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch, as well as directors Ann Snyder and Bruce Rieser were not present for the meeting, and the start of the meeting was delayed slightly because only three board members were present at the official 6 p.m. start time. Once Director Carol Stromatt was seated, the meeting continued until about 7:30 p.m., a sharp difference to other meetings hosted in 2019 which last from two to four hours.

jeff.forward@chron.com