Frequently Asked Questions - Q19


The City is proposing to add a new drainage fee to the existing transfers of excess water and sewer revenues to cover the costs of alleviating flooding problems. Wonít the proposed charter amendment prevent having monies available to cover the flooding problems?


No. First of all, Houstonians should receive a reduction in their water and sewer rates. Houstoniansí water rates have increased by a compounded rate of 141% since 1982 and sewer rates by 210%, both hugely in excess of the rate of inflation since 1982. Part of the increases was necessary to take care of compliance with environmental requirements forced upon the City. However, the compliance requirements have been met and the Water and Sewer System Fundís operating expenses (excluding depreciation and interest) now are only about 45% of its operating revenues. This generation of great amounts of cash (55% of operating revenues), has allowed the City to not only meet its large water and sewer debt service needs but, for several years now, to also transfer huge amounts of money to the General Fund to cover the waste and mismanagement in the out-of-control public works department and the other tremendous amounts of fat in other City services. Further, there is no need for a new drainage fee (a tax, regardless of what the City chooses to call it), because there is enough fat in the City budget to cover drainage needs with much money left over. Incidentally, we believe that any special charges for flood control costs should be approved by the voters, and only after thorough public debate of the issues. The following facts should be part of the debate: (a) Houston is only a part of its several watersheds, so those governmental entities upstream from Houston and those downstream (bayous-Harris Countyís flood control district) should share in an overall plan and costs; (b) Harris County budgeted over $108 million for flood control in fiscal 2002 and yet spent only about $43 million, plus it decreased the flood control district portion of the County property tax from $0.07967/$100 in 1997 to just $0.04758/$100 in 2001; (c) tropical storm Allison (June 2001) dumped about three-fifths of Houstonís large normal annual rainfall. Any basically flatland city would have suffered severe flooding in that situation; (d) It does questionable good to improve Houston drainage if the flood control district does not increase its bayou capacity; and (e) the flood control district admits it cannot stop flooding, only lower the risk, and now advises every property owner to get flood insurance.

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