The Woodlands Township board cut short its scheduled week of five budget workshops, cancelling a Friday, Aug. 17, session after the board had made faster progress than expected during the first four days of workshops. The board also OK’d a proposed lower property tax rate for 2018 and an overall proposed 2019 budget of $124.2 million.
According to a press release from township officials, the proposed 2018 property tax rate of 22.73 cents per $100 of taxable property value was tentatively approved pending a final vote scheduled for the board’s normal meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 22. Because that tax amount is the same as the effective tax rate that was earlier set by the Montgomery County Tax Assessor’s Office, there is no legal requirement to have two public hearings on the tax rate, the release stated, meaning scheduled public hearings set for Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 have been cancelled. The board will not vote on the final budget on Sept. 12 as originally planned, instead it is an agenda item for Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Monique Sharp, assistant general manager for finance and administration for The Woodlands, said the lowered 2018 proposed tax rate will — on average — offset any potential property value increases that both commercial and residential property owners may have experienced in the past year.
“The board lowered the tax rate to the (county) effective tax rate, from 23 cents (per $100 valuation) to 22.73 cents. Every year, the board is very mindful of what the effective tax rate is,” Sharp explained. “(The effective tax rate) Negates the effect of increase in taxable (property) value between the two years. If your new tax statement came out and (your) property (value) went up by 2 percent, (the effective tax rate) negates the increase in property taxes.”
Sharp said under the rejected 23 cents per $100 valuation rate, the township would have corralled about $845,000 more in property tax revenue, while the proposed 22.73 cents per $100 valuation rate will bring in roughly $307,000 in property tax revenue.
In addition to lowering the property tax rate, the board powered through the first four days of the budget workshop process, eliminating the need for a fifth scheduled workshop originally scheduled for the morning of Friday, Aug. 17, Sharp added.
The proposed $122.5 million budget from earlier in the budget workshop process was increased to about $124.2 million, Sharp said, after board members, “made some adjustments” to the budget in specific areas.
Included in the changes that led to the more than $1.7 million expenditures increase are:
Accelerated the digitazing of township property records, going from all paper to a digital, computed-based records system.
Implementing closed captioning on township meeting videos for deaf or hearing impaired viewers.
Approving business plans to expedite the construction of an adventure park course at Rob Fleming Park.
Approving an expanded parking lot at Timarron Park.
OK’d adding eight new tennis courts and a roofing structure to cover basketball courts at Bear Branch Park.
Sharp said one of the bigger cost items was the digitizing the township’s property records, a project she said was initially supposed to take longer but one that board members had a desire to speed up.
“We were going to do it over a five-year period, but now it will be done in three years,” Sharp said. The project began in 2017 and was expected to be completed in 2021, but is now on scheduled to be completed by the end of the 2019 calendar year.
As for other changes, Sharp said the adventure course will be paid for out of the 2019 budget, but board members believed the expected revenue from the new park — which is hoped to include zip lines and other obstacles — in its first year of operation would offset the 2019 cost and make it a revenue neutral project after the first year of operation.
Adding the eight tennis courts to Bear Branch Park was a result of public feedback on amenities in the township, Sharp added.
“The demand for tennis (is high),” she explained.
The proposed 2018 tax rate and the proposed 2019 budget is scheduled to be voted on by the full board at its meeting scheduled for 4 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 22.