SUGAR LAND (Covering Fort Bend News) – Sugar Land City Council voted recently to raise the residential homestead exemption for the 2019 tax year to 12 percent.
The increase offsets the residential impact of a planned tax rate increase of approximately 1 cent to fund the remaining parks bond projects approved by voters in November 2013.
“The strategy allows the city to move forward with fulfilling its commitment to implement voter-approved projects within five to seven years from the election while also rebalancing the residential share of the overall tax burden — a recognition that residential revaluation has outpaced commercial value growth in recent years,” said Mayor Joe R. Zimmerman. “The projects will be completed with no additional tax impact to our residents because the Sugar Land City Council increased the homestead exemption to 12 percent from 10 percent. Going into the fiscal year 2020 budget process, our priorities are to ensure that the upcoming budget reflects the priorities our residents have told us are important to them, builds trust within the community and inspires pride in our hometown.”
Three projects remain from the 2013 voter-approved general obligation parks bond:
- First Colony Trail: This project will fulfill the intent of creating a connected trail network within the First Colony area by building 10-foot wide trail connections from Lexington Boulevard and Austin Parkway to the Woodstream Trail with pedestrian bridges and trailheads – and reflecting community and Parks, Art, Recreation, Culture, and Streetscapes (PARCS) Board consensus on the preferred trail alignment.
- Ditch H Trail: This project will provide a north/south connection between the Imperial Connector Trail and First Colony Trail network, including a 10-foot wide trail with pedestrian bridges and trailheads.
- Final Brazos River Park Phase II Improvements: This project includes a roadway connecting Brazos River Park and Sugar Land Memorial Park. Due to the ongoing studies regarding erosion along the Brazos River, City Council has recommended that the originally planned mid-lake and boathouse be postponed until a definitive determination can be made in future years as to the sustainability of those elements.
The city council will continue to refine the scopes of the final voter-approved parks bond projects throughout the budget process to reflect all available information, including updated cost estimates and the availability of grant opportunities. In total, the city will have raised the tax rate less than 2 cents for the parks bond projects, significantly less than the maximum 3.1-cent tax rate impact stated at the time of the November 2013 election.
As part of the budget process, city council will consider further investments to maintain the “Sugar Land Way.” Residents have identified these investments to address drainage, mobility and public safety; however, the cost to fund these capital improvements exceed the city’s ability to maintain a flat tax rate. City council is considering an approximate $90 million bond election for November to fund projects prioritized by residents in the most recent Citizen Satisfaction Survey and following Hurricane Harvey and the May 7 rain event – with over half of the proposed package going toward drainage improvements.
The bonds represent an investment of approximately 3 cents on the tax rate or about $10 per month for the average Sugar Land homeowner – less than the cost of a ticket to a movie theater – to fund items such as drainage improvements, a public safety training facility, a public safety dispatch and emergency operations facility, an animal shelter expansion and road projects.
In accordance with the City Charter, the city manager will file the recommended fiscal year 2020 budget and five-year capital improvement program at the City Council meeting on July 16. Formal City Council consideration of the budget and tax rate – which remains the second lowest in the state of Texas among similarly-sized cities – will occur in September after a series of budget workshops and public hearings. More information about the 2013 voter-approved parks bond projects is available at www.sugarlandtx.gov/2013ParkBonds.