Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce adopts resolution opposing Woodlands incorporation as a city

Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce adopts resolution opposing Woodlands incorporation as a city

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

The Woodlands, September 28 – The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce adopted a resolution this past Friday, September 24, 2021, opposing incorporation of The Woodlands as a city. JJ Hollie, President of the Chairman, announced passage of the resolution, which represents the position of the twelve hundred (1200) businesses in the pro-business organization, the largest of its kind in the Greater Houston area.

The Chamber’s resolution carefully explains the organization’s reasoning behind its opposition to incorporation. As for the argument that incorporation is necessary to fend off attempts by the city of Houston or Conroe to annex The Woodlands, the Chamber explained that

  • (1) 2007 legislation, passed in the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Texas Govenor Rick Perry, provided the authority for The Woodlands, Conroe, and Houston to enter into a Regional Participation Agreement, which protects The Woodlands Township from annexation by Houston or Conroe through November 16, 2057, and
  • (2) the Texas Annexation Reform Act of 2017 protects The Woodlands by making the municipal annexation process more democratic by requiring the consent of the majority of register voters in a proposed area for annexation.

The Chamber criticized the timing of the incorporation referendum, which Woodlands Township Chairman Gordy Bunch and four of his colleagues on the Township Board set for November 2, 2021, because

  • (1) the timing of incorporation should be completely up to our residents and business community to ensure they fully understand the transition plan and impacts,
  • (2) The Woodlands Township stated they would not place the vote on the ballot in a non-presidential or gubernatorial year, but Bunch and his allies did so for political reasons, and
  • (3) The Woodlands Township staff  presented the financial data to the Township Board on Friday, August 13 before the deadline of August 16 to place Incorporation on the ballot, leaving inadequate amount of time for the board and community to fully understand the impact.

The Chamber’s resolution also explained what a terrible law enforcement impact would occur from incorporation at the present time, particularly in light of the fact that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Constable Ryan Gable’s Precinct 3 Office provide outstanding law enforcement services to The Township’s residents and businesses. Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce raised the following concerns about Bunch’s and the Township Board’s law enforcement plans, because

  • (1) Local law enforcement experts have revealed substantial gaps, shortfalls, errors and omissions in the consultant study funded by The Woodlands Township, the document endorsed as a reliable blueprint for establishing a new police department should voters elect to incorporate.
  • (2) In addition to budgetary omissions, the law enforcement expert’s report reveals a lack of understanding of the operational realities of a modern-day police force.
  • (3) Law enforcement experts agree the consultant study funded by The Woodlands Township ignores the risk and costs of assuming accountability and liability associated with operating a police department, including the need to budget for settlement of claims and/or the cost of insurance. The study does not address the increasing costs of pension plans, collective bargaining and negotiating with a new police union, and ignored how financial crimes, special victims, gang activity, computer crime, juvenile crime, some vice offenses and regulatory offenses will be addressed or funded.
  • (4) Local elected law enforcement officials, Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson, and Constable Ryan Gable, Montgomery County Constable Precinct 3, have reviewed the expert report and agree significant gaps, errors, and omissions are included in the consultant study funded by The Woodlands Township.
  • (5) Per Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson’s public statement on Incorporation, “at a time when crime is rising across America, now is not the time to dismantle your law enforcement.”

Concerns about increased government spending and high taxes, if incorporation as a city were to occur, have also drawn The Chambers opposition to incorporation. The Chamber explained:

  • (1) That the addition of every $2M of costs to the operational budget, due to errors, omissions, or understatements in the consultant study funded by The Woodlands Township, result in approximately $.01 in increases to the future tax rate of the city of The Woodlands.
  • (2) The existing tax rate of $0.2231 per $100 valuation has allowed for significant pre-funding of The Woodlands Township reserve funds intended to be utilized specifically for incorporation. A revised tax rate needs to be presented by The Woodlands Township, should Incorporation fail at the ballot box in November, so that Woodlands residents will understand how much money they’d save by rejecting the incorporation referendum.
  • (3) A significant amount of The Woodlands Township incorporation reserve funds have been accumulated by pre-taxing residents and businesses within The Woodlands. The Woodlands Township should provide an alternative plan for utilization of these funds should incorporation fail at the ballot box in November.
  • (4) The current low tax, pro-business environment attracts hotels, restaurants, and quality businesses for Woodlands residents to enjoy.
  • (5) The Woodlands as a city will unleash a new tax rate, new city service charges, and a new taxing authority while creating no new services.

In its formal resolution, the Chamber of Commerce noted that the action of incorporating can never be undone, and will cause massive changes in the function, cost, and efficiency of The Woodlands’ current governance model.

The Chamber conducted a survey to determine the position of its membership on the incorporation issue prior to passage of the resolution opposing incorporation. The survey revealed a majority desire to take a stance against incorporation in the upcoming election.

 

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