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More on Renew Houston

The effort to create a dedicated fund for flooding and drainage is moving along at a good clip.

Renew Houston, the non-profit committee formed to seek at least 22,000 ballot signatures in a bid to put the matter to voters in November, sent direct mail this week to about 150,000 households. Many received automated phone messages about the proposed charter amendment, as well.

If approved by voters, the proposal would create a dedicated fund for drainage and street renewal, using revenues from fees charged to businesses, homeowners and developers, as well as a portion of property tax money that presently is being used to pay off debt associated with infrastructure projects.


The $8 billion to improve drainage would come primarily from three sources. First, the “Stormwater User Fee” that is expected to amount to about $5 per month for an average homeowner and $90 a month for an average commercial property owner with 14 units per acre.

Second, a “Development Impact Fee” would set up a program by which developers have to pay for the degree to which their projects impact density.

Third, a “pay-as-you-go” plan that would take the estimated one-sixth of total city property tax revenues used now to pay for interest costs on debt that has financed infrastructure and drainage projects and apply it directly to new projects. In other words, the city would not incur additional debt to pay for infrastructure as part of the plan and as old debts are paid off, money used to make those payments would be put to drainage and infrastructure projects.

You can see a bit more about Renew Houston at their web page, though it’s a bit light on details at this point. I’m somewhat unclear on that last item above, but as it happens I’ll be attending a briefing by the Renew Houston folks today, so one way or another I hope to get my questions answered. I’ll post something about that afterward.

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  1. Gee Li says:

    I agree with the confusion on the third point. It seems to imply they will offset the infrastructure interest payments with the new Stormwater & Development Impact Fees. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this.

  2. Tory says:

    I assume the thinking is this: politicians want a short-term impact, so they float a bond issue to do stuff immediately and leave the debt payments to successors. This will stop allowing them to do that, and do everything on a long-term pay-as-you-go basis. Of course, the first decade or so, a lot of the money will have to go towards paying off bonds already issued. If you look at their numbers, the big $ impact is in the second decade because of this.

  3. Lois says:

    Actually, close reading of the petition shows that ALL the revenues can be used to service debt. Read Sec b, subsec ii. Ad-valorem tax revenue will not be credited to the fund until is reduced by debt service for bonds issued prior to Dec 31, 2011 and bond issue to redeem those bonds. Then Sec D says “funding for the Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund that is not derived from ad valorem taxes (i.e., that portion derived from fees, charges, and third party payments) shall not be included in those revenues limited by this Charter.” So the only revenues NOT allowed to be used to service debt is any ad valorem tax revenue left over after interest on bonds has already been paid from those tax revenues. Lot of smoke and mirrors, but nothing in the petition limits ALL the revenue going to pay debt service. Guess they’re banking on people signing without reading the actual petition. Its just a fancy package for a bond levy. Pretty opaque about who makes up this new organization. Neither the petition mailing or their web site makes any mention of any officers, directors, or other names of people or businesses involved.

  4. […] I attended that blogger briefing I wrote about last week to learn more about Renew Houston. It was very informative, and I want to thank CM […]

  5. Geo Baker says:

    Our household received one of those direct mailings. I was STUNNED when I saw on the OUTSIDE of the mailer my husband’s name, address, date of birth, & voter’s registration number. Have these people never heard of identity theft? No one in our household will sign their petition because this group is apparently run by idiots. Isn’t this a violation of our privacy to have our personal information displayed like this?