The Cost of Incorporation is Beginning to Increase!
Although the current Incorporation Study conclusions are still in a preliminary state, the information compiled to date provides an early indication that incorporation will require The Township to assume significant additional responsibilities, all of which translate to a higher cost for the Woodlands taxpayers. Although it is not known the precise impact incorporation will have on the property taxes we pay, common sense should tell us it will be more. And, there will not be a corresponding reduction in our County Tax Rate.
For example, the current studies point to the following cost increases over the first five years after becoming a new City:
- Regardless of the options chosen, it is estimated, over the first five years, we will face a $25 Million increase in the operating cost for Law Enforcement. There is no large reduction in these cots even if we stay with our current contract approach with MCSO. It will still cost us an average of $4.2 Million per year more than today- as a city, MCSO may not be able to completely fund the 25 deputies they provide today. In addition, if The Woodlands continue with the existing MCSO contract approach, the new city would not benefit from any fine revenue as all such revenue will continue to accrue to the County. These costs will add $0.022 cents annually to our property tax rate with no additional "boots on the ground."
Creating our own In- House Police Department will require $9.9 Million in capital cost, including the construction of a new 34,000 sq., ft. Police Department building. The Consultants have recommended The Woodlands transition to our own Police Department over a three-year period, starting with the elimination of the use of the Harris Constable Office in Creekside Park. Some presence of an In-House Police Department will be needed to enforce City Ordinances.
- We will have to assume a liability of $103 million over the next five years to maintain and develop our roads. Through 2057, this liability will grow to $389 Million. This includes over $100 million in road expansion costs that HR Green acknowledged have not been included in their Pavement Analysis Study. In addition, the current study has underestimated the cost of reconstructing our aging roads by assuming that their useful life will be 100 years. The more realistic estimate by other engineers is closer to 50 years. These costs will add $0.099 cents annually to our property tax rate.
In total, over the first five-years of being a new city, the above increased costs alone will add an average of least 12.2 cents to our current property tax rate, a 54% increase.
As the study progresses, how much more additional costs could we be facing? At the September 25 Public Forum, Chairman Bunch asserted that these increased costs could be negotiated away by the County agreeing to bear them in lieu of the new city. What would the other Cities in Montgomery County think about the County agreeing to such a great deal with The Woodlands at their expense? Given the uncertainty of any negotiations with Montgomery County, it is important that the cost of incorporation be viewed over at least a five-year period and that both a Best-Worse Case Scenario be presented to The Woodlands Residents