Image: Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack spoke to the Montgomery County Tea Party at their meeting on Monday, September 6, 2021.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
The Woodlands, September 8 – Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner, the leading conservative politician in The Woodlands, who lives and works inside the Woodlands Township, spoke to the Montgomery County Tea Party PAC meeting on Monday, September 6, 2021, about why the residents of The Woodlands should rejected self-annexation (incorporation as a city) in the November 2 General Election.
“If we incorporate in November, before all these [specific financial] questions are answered and before we’ve had a good conversation, then we’re stuck paying for something we wish we hadn’t bought,” Noack told the audience of mostly Woodlands residents. “It will be a very expensive tax coming due by people who are in the city of The Woodlands for roads. It will be a lot more expensive than what it appears today.”
Noack explained that the $7 million in new franchise taxes that a city of The Woodlands would assess would likely mostly come through utility bills of Woodlands residents who would receive those pass-through costs from the entities against whom the city assesses those taxes. “It would be like another 3 cent property tax on everyone’s home in The Woodlands,” the Commissioner explained.
Noack burst the bubble of self-governance, the primary argument the pro-Big Government Woodlands Township Board has made in favor of incorporation. “You hear about self-governance. Don’t we do that today? Our community has done a good job keeping the people they like and rejected the people they don’t…It’s not true to say we’d only have self-governance as a city…If you give this to them [a city council], we won’t get it back.”
Noack noted that the County won’t be building and repairing roads for The Woodlands any longer and city taxes will have to cover that expense.
“You hear the argument that, if we become a city, we’ll have a seat at the table with HGAC [the Houston Galveston Area Council which distributes federal and state road and bridge funds to local government entities]. That’s like saying we’ll add a seat to this room [which had over 200 chairs]. That’s how little influence you’d have at HGAC. What you need to be doing is to work to create a new Metropolitan Planning Organization in this region to control federal dollars…The Woodlands would have no representative of its own on the HGAC board,” Noack said. “If The Woodlands incorporates, you’ll be just one vote of a group of cities who elect one person to elect a representative on the HGAC Board.”
Noack discussed all of the new regulations and ordinances Woodlands residents would suffer, if they choose to self-annex themselves into a city. “How does a city control? A city has ordinance-making authority. We don’t know what will come up next. The first precinct that will turn blue will be to let them come in and take over with ordinance making authority where they can control things,” he said.
“We were successful in stopping the Woodlands Parkway Extension,” Noack noted. “In order to make that a bigger reality [to stop WPX], I worked with Howard Hughes Corporation’s Alex Sutton to pull that piece of land to re-plat that for a big box store, so that road will never go through…Even if The Woodlands is a city, since the road is totally outside of The Woodlands, being a city would not change that particular issue.”
Noack was critical of the over-taxation Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch and his allies on the Township Board have assessed on Woodlands residents during the past few years. “The county has adopted the no new revenue tax rate the last three years. While we were doing that, the Township hasn’t. They didn’t do it, because they wanted to become a city. One year, Ann Snyder got them to do it…The conservatives were angry that they had to adopt a lower tax rate…When they tell you they can incorporate for 22.31 [per $100 valuation]…when you start reading their model, you’ll realize things that they’re expecting the taxable value of everyone’s home property to be 2% per year…That means that if you have a home…in five years…that’a 10.7% tax increase in just five years. Their own experts told them it would be $14-15 million more than what they assumed, but to make the tax increase lower, they just doubled the property tax appraisal increases, ” Noack explained.
As for property tax valuations, Noack noted, “In 2017 and 2018, home values went down in The Woodlands. Over the last five years, the increase of homes in The Woodlands were actually down 0.53%. But their [pro-incorporation] model assumes a 2% increase per year…They’re assuming 3 times the growth rate for sales tax that their own experts told them to use.”
Commissioner Noack pointed out that there are many unanswered questions about incorporation. “Who will take care of the roads and bridges for the city? Where will they get the equipment, because even I’m having trouble getting road and bridge equipment right now with the pandemic?” Noack said. “Think about the men and women who serve in the Sheriff’s Department. Right now, you know who is protecting you. What is the face of law enforcement going to look like post-incorporation? They talk about self-governance. If you have a situation with a law enforcement officer you don’t like, you can talk to the Constable, the Sheriff, or an elected official. A City police chief is not an elected official. I don’t like that. I think it’s much better to vote for elected law enforcement officials.”
Noack explained there is no realistic possibility that Conroe or Houston would annex The Woodlands. “We have a Regional Participation Agreement with Conroe and The Woodlands, that precludes annexation until 2057,” the Commissioner explained. “We also have state law which requires that, before a city annexes other land, the people there must vote in a referendum.”
The so-called “conservatives” on the Woodlands Township Board have complained that the Woodlands, as an unincorporated area, did not qualify to receive federal CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) stimulus funds in 2020 and 2021. The Woodlands would never have qualified to receive CARES Act funds, because those stimulus monies only went to cities with a population over 500,000, a number almost four times the population of The Woodlands Township. As for the ARPA funds, those funds go to reduce tax rates, but instead must go only towards expenditures of new projects. No one has identified for what The Woodlands might expend those funds, which come with severe regulatory conditions on how a city might spend them.
In concluding his remarks, Noack said, “One of the challenges is trying to find a city I want to become. It’s hard to find a city we want to emulate. This is the #1 community in America without us being a city. Why do we want to mess with it?”