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District J Journal -July 27

Just Say No - Part II...

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On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, City council approved the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Year 2018-2022. For the second time in two years I voted "No."

The CIP is a 5 year plan of all public works and infrastructure construction projects that are scheduled to take place throughout the City.

According to this year's records furnished by the Finance Department, District J is scheduled to receive a 7% share of the amounts of funds attributed to the City's eleven Council districts. While this is a slight improvement over District J's 5% share in 2017, it is significantly less than the 18% share attributed to the district receiving the most money. In fact, the top three districts are scheduled to receive a combined amount of 41% of the funds (18%, 12% and 11%). Again this year, my no vote reflected my protest against the inequitable distribution of CIP funds. However, the question of equity and fairness is even more compounded by this year's CIP budget - particularly those projects scheduled to be funded by the tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) monies.

As you know, for the past 30 years, the City has used TIRZs as a funding tool to jump start economic development and to pay for special projects. Three TIRZ zones exist within District J's boundaries: a small portion of the Uptown/Galleria TIRZ in the District's northeast corner; the St. George's Place TIRZ in the Richmond corridor area; and, the geographically larger Sharpstown TIRZ.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2017, the City began charging a Municipal Services Fee (MSF) to 13 of the City's twenty-plus TIRZs. The MSF is designed to "recapture costs" of City services such as police, fire, streets, water and sewer that would have been attributed to the City's General Fund, since the inception of the particular TIRZ. Notwithstanding the argument that we already paid taxes for those services, the MSF fee assessed to the Sharpstown TIRZ is particularly burdensome.

The District J CIP list for FY2018-2022 lists 21 projects, of which 12 are funded by our TIRZ. Eight (8) of these 12 projects are specifically funded by Sharpstown TIRZ dollars. Every year, the Sharpstown TIRZ receives roughly $7 million as its annual operating increment. With refinanced outstanding debt of about $3 million, that leaves about $4 million to be used on projects. As luck would have it, the amount of the MSF expected to be collected from the Sharpstown TIRZ for FY18 is $3,191,109. The same amount was "recaptured" by the City in FY 2017. The MSF is currently scheduled to be collected every year until the end of the TIRZ life span. The Sharpstown TIRZ MSF is at least 46% of the TIRZ's annual operating increment. That leaves a little more than $1 million left in the TIRZ accounts to pay for the eight projects mentioned above.

By way of comparison, the Uptown/Galleria TIRZ 2015 increment was roughly $43 million dollars. However, its MSF fee is only $5,272,994 - roughly 12% of its annual operating increment. The Sharpstown TIRZ is the only TIRZ required to pay a municipal services fee that is larger than the amount it is allowed to keep in its coffers. In fact, it pays 3 times more dollars to the City than is left in its coffers to pay for our scheduled projects. In my opinion that imbalance is inequitable, unfair and unjust.

The fight continues...

Thank You,
Council Member Mike Laster, District J


Station 28 Gets a Grill

fire station 28 grill

District J is always proud of its first responders, and we seek to support them at every opportunity. Recently, one such opportunity presented itself, when the fire fighters of Fire Station 28 expressed to Council Member Laster their need of a new larger gas grill to help with station meals. Council Member Laster and the District J team immediately undertook the task of finding donors for the project.

The station at Chimney Rock - one of the busiest in the entire City - had long been seeking a natural gas grill. Wisdom High School (formerly Lee High School) had graciously donated a charcoal grill that the school's award-winning welding team had manufactured. Your District J office contacted local business owners in the area to see if any could help with obtaining funding for the new grill. We're fortunate that local business owners Michael Roa and Augie Bering of Bering's Hardware answered the call. Last Friday, June 21st, the new grill was delivered to the station and installed!

District J wants to thank Michael Roa, Augie Bering and Bering Hardware for their work to support our local heroes in the Fire Department. Thank you HFD for all your hard work in protecting us on a daily basis.


Around the Community

greenridge sidewalk

A Council District Service Fund project requested by the community for a new sidewalk on Greenridge between Beverly Hill and Richmond was completed

taiwan delegates

Council Member Laster welcomed delegates from the Taiwan and Houston Youth Overseas Bridging Project


Still Time to Sign Up!

Majors back2school festThere is still time to sign up for the Mayor's Back to School Fest. Free immunizations, free dental screenings, free vision screenings, haircut vouchers, school supplies, backpackes and other free resources (including a free round trip by METRO) will all be available! Please visit www.houstontx.gov/btsf or call 311 to learn more and to register.

Sign up soon because supplies are going fast!