HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner proposed a temporary tax increase to aid in Harvey recovery efforts.
Turner has asked for an increase of 63.87 per $100. The current rate is 58.4.
The mayor said the 8.9 percent boost in the property tax rate he's proposing to Houston City Council would raise about $113 million.
The proposed hike is for 12 months, because it is an emergency request. The law specifies the city cannot extend the tax beyond 12 months or make the hike permanent.
The money will go toward city projects like damaged roads, bridges, parks, libraries and damaged or destroyed first responder vehicles.
Turner said the extra money would cover expenses not reimbursed by federal programs and help pay for debris removal, the loss of 334 city vehicles, repairs to City Hall and a courts building and two sewage treatment plants.
The average home in the city of Houston is valued at $225,000. The annual tax for that home is $1,321, and it will increase by $117.86 per year.
The city expects 80-90 percent reimbursement from FEMA, but the city has to pay the rest.
The city must hold three public meetings before the City Council votes Oct. 18. If the proposal goes through, it would go into effect in January 2018.
“In the long run, we have to do something to get money back in these people's hands so they can rebuild. It may look like a slap in the face right now, but it's not,“ said Suzanne Tidwell, a Houston taxpayer who supports the mayor’s proposal.
Houston city councilman Jack Christie believes the timing couldn’t be worse.
“I see what he's doing, but raising the taxes on the people that are hurting, I just don't think that's the answer," Christie said.
Christie said instead of supporting Turner's plan, he'll suggest two or three different options
“They want their trash picked up and some help with their flooded homes. That's what we are going to try to give them but not by taking money out of their pockets,” Christie said.
Christie is going suggest that the city take out a low-interest loan from a bank to pay for trash removal, borrow against the November bond issue or ask the federal government to advance the city of Houston $100 million to cover the expense of trash removal.