The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
The Woodlands, November 9 – In June, 2020, after a presentation by the Novak Consulting Group, which received over $1 million to conduct a “study” about incorporation of a city government for The Woodlands, Director Ann Snyder noted that the report was still an “interim report” which left out many important items for residents to consider as they march towards a vote up or down on the formation of a city government issue. The report tucked away $43.5 million of additional expenditures, which The Woodlands residents’ would have to pay, but those expenses are only during the first four years after a city government were formed.
The November 3, 2020, General Election results elected four experienced individuals to the Board of Directors of the Woodlands Township, but those four are unlikely to press the consulting firm to provide complete information. Gordy Bunch, the current Woodlands Township Chairman, won re-election handily, while his colleagues Bruce Rieser, Jason Nelson, and John Brown also won additional two-year terms.
Bunch, Rieser, Nelson, and Brown have become vehement partisans in favor of formation of a city government, as they’ve made clear they want to centralize their power over Woodlands residents. Therefore, they are unlikely to demand full disclosure of the costs and the pitfalls from formation of a city government as a new governmental entity to tax and regulate Woodlands residents.
Two anti-city government formation candidates, Dan Hannon and Jimmie Dotson, lost their elections this year. In 2019, Andy Dubois, an employee of Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner James Noack, lost in his quest to become a Woodlands Township Director who would question the validity of the incorporation study.
While the Township Board members, especially Bunch and Rieser, argue that Township residents should have the right to vote on formation of a city government, they obviously don’t want Township residents to have all of the information with which to render such an important decision. By raising taxes well above what was necessary to continue operations of the Township, Bunch and his colleagues have socked away approximately $20 million in cash and real estate in order to reduce the tax burden from city government formation during the first five years of an incorporated city. They’ve done that, because an incorporation election, under Texas law, must include disclosure of the highest tax rate to city residents during the first five years of city formation.
The problem, however, is that The Woodlands Incorporation Study has completely failed to disclose the cost of incorporation and the enormous tax increases residents will likely suffer in years 6 through 10 after formation of a city government, the time period when city employee pensions will likely begin to vest and other major expenditures will arise as the city’s infrastructure, such as roads which the Montgomery County government presently maintains, would age.
The listing of “cons” in the million dollar consulting study is breathtakingly incomplete. The study left out three of the most significant drawbacks to the formation of a city government:
- Significantly higher taxes in The Woodlands, especially beginning in year 5;
- Double taxation of homes and families in the older parts of The Woodlands where they’ve already paid off municipal utility district (MUD) indebtedness but where they’ll have to pay for newer MUDs’ debt when all of that debt load reverts to the city government;
- Enormous loss of the “hometown” feel of The Woodlands when violations, which currently only go against deed restrictions, will become criminal offenses under a city code for which homeowners will face criminal citations.
Voters in The Woodlands should most certainly have the opportunity to decide whether they want to create a new level of government to tax and regulate them. They should have a fair opportunity to know all of the facts before they make such a decision.