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District J Journal - June 21, 2018

City Council Approves FY19 Budget

Mayor Supports Laster Amendment for Review of Municipal Services Fee

On Wednesday, May 30th, City Council approved its Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 – which begins on July, 1, 2018. The $2.5 Billion dollar budget is one half of the City’s total budgets and is generally funded by ad valorem property taxes, sales taxes and some various fees. The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget of roughly $2.5 Billion will be addressed later this Summer.

This year, I voted "Yes" to pass the Operating Budget. You may recall that in the past few years that I have voted "no" on both the Operating and CIP Budgets to protest the devastating effect of the imposition of the “Municipal Services Fee” upon District J.

For the past three decades the City has used tax increment re-investment zones (TIRZs) as a funding tool to jump start economic development and to pay for special projects. District J has three TIRZ zones within its boundaries. A small portion of the Uptown/Galleria TIRZ is found in the District's northeast corner. The St. George's Place TIRZ occupies the Richmond corridor area. The Sharpstown TIRZ is the geographically largest TIRZ in District J and is primarily centered along Bellaire Boulevard with arms extending to multiple other areas south and northwards.

Starting 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 charged to the TIRZ budgets and re-directed to the City’s General Fund. The City’s rational for the MSF claims that it 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 has been particularly burdensome.

The current formula used to calculate the MSF is not applied evenly or fairly to all the districts so charged. Since 2017 the Sharpstown TIRZ has been required to pay 40% or more of its annual increments into the fee. With an annual increment of roughly $7 million dollars the MSF attributed to Sharpstown has been at least $3 million dollars and has increased beyond that. The next closest fee charged to a participating TIRZ is roughly 20% of that TIRZ’s increment. By contrast the Uptown TIRZ, the City’s wealthiest TIRZ — has had an annual increment of not less than $43 million dollars and pays only $5 million plus as its MSF. That is only 11 to 12 percent of that TIRZ’s annual increment. In short, the MSF imposed upon the Sharpstown TIRZ has been disproportionately burdensome on District J. Unless the calculation of the MSF formula is changed, this year District J will have cumulatively lost more than $10 million dollars in payments to the MSF. Loss of those dollars has directly effected the District J CIP budget — of which 50% of its current District J projects have been scheduled to be paid for by the Sharpstown TIRZ funds.

To address this inequity I proposed an amendment to the Operating Budget. The Laster Amendment calls upon the City to review the current formula used in determining the MSF and report and recommend any proposed revisions to City Council within 90 days of the passage of the budget. I am pleased to report that Mayor Turner supported the Laster Amendment — which was in fact passed by City Council.

I look forward to the coming report and will continue to advocate for an equitable adjustment in the operation of the MSF as it effects District J. I hope you will join me in seeking fairness for District J.

Thank You,
Council Member Mike Laster


Design Standards and Chapter 19 Meeting

The City of Houston is looking for ways to reduce the risk of flood losses for future development and redevelopment projects. The City is considering ordinance revisions, new regulations, building codes and design guidelines.

The City has adopted amendments to Chapter 19 and has posted an updated draft of the guidelines for public review and comment through Friday, June 29th. Please click here to learn more about the changes. A survey is also available to take if you would like the City to know your opinions on this issue.

An open house meeting will be held in southwest Houston at the end of this month:

When: Thursday, June 28, 6pm to 8pm
Where: Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center
5601 S Braeswood Blvd.
Houston, TX 77096


Harvey Housing Recovery Plan Meeting

The Housing Department will be hosting a community meeting in District J to discuss the $1 billion in HUD housing recovery funds allocated to the City of Houston for Hurricane Harvey.

When: Thursday, June 28, 2018, 6pm to 8pm
Where: Baker-Ripley Gulfton Campus
6500 Rookin St., 77074
The Chase Opportunity Center
Room C113/127

This event will be a chance for residents to receive information about short-term recovery programs, learn about the process for long-term recovery, and give input about what types of housing recovery activities they want to see in their communities.

If you are unable to attend the meeting, please provide your feedback via this online survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HoustonHarveyRecovery

You can review the Houston Local Action Plan here:
http://houstontx.gov/housing/Draft_Houston_local_action_plan_6.6.2018.pdf

We look forward to hearing your input on how these vital federal funds should be utilized!


SER-Ninos Children's Library Opens

ser-ninos

The SER-Ninos Children's Library has opened at Gulfton and Alder! The public library was made possible through a joint effort including the SER-Ninos Charter School, Houston Public Library (HPL) system and a $2 million CDBG grant from the Housing and Community Affairs Department.

While serving the students during the school day, the library will be open to the public on designated weeknight and weekends. The library will provide direct access to the HPL collection through its online system. We are excited about this new addition to the Gulfton community!


Mural Unveiled Gulfton

gulftown mural

The Department of Neighborhood’s Mayor’s Citizens’ Assistance Office partnered with Elia and Noah Quiles, owners of UP Art Studio, the Houston Police Department, Police and Clergy Team, Gulfton Super Neighborhood #27 and the Salvation Army, to proudly unveil the creation of a community based mural!

The mural was professionally painted by artist Rahmaan Statik of Chicago. Statik has nearly 20 years of experience painting murals with community engagement. He wasn't alone though -- students from the nearby Braeburn Elementary School helped to paint the mural. The facility chosen for this mural was The Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center at 6150 Bissonnet Street, Houston, 77081.

We are particularly proud that the mural contains protraits of District J community volunteers Tammy Rodriguez, Father Alejandro Montes and HPD Officer John Randy Bond.


New Playground at Forum Park

new playground

The Council District Service Fund has brought about many great projects to Southwest Houston. One such project wrapped up recently -- new playground equipment at Forum Park!

This park located in the Westwood area of the District is adjacent to Bush Elementary School in the Alief Independent School District. This is just another example of the many ways the Council District Service Fund has brought much-needed infrastructure repairs and improvement projects to District J. More to come!


Mayor's Back 2 School Event

The Mayor’s Back to School Fest is designed to help economically disadvantaged Houston- area elementary school students and their families as they prepare to return to school. With the help of many great partners and sponsors, backpacks, school supplies, health screenings, immunizations, and social service resources are provided to thousands of students, free of charge.

This year the Mayor’s Back to School Fest presented by Shell will be on Saturday, August 11th, 2018. The event is located at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Due to limited space and supplies, you must PRE-REGISTER to attend this event.