Impacts of Governance & Incorporation
The Woodlands Township is the governmental service provider for residents and businesses of The Woodlands. The Woodlands was originally founded in 1974 by George P. Mitchell, and 2007 legislation provided the authority to enter into the Regional Participation Agreements with the City of Houston and the City of Conroe and to establish a new governance body for The Woodlands. In 2010, the Township took over full responsibility of Association services. In 2014, The Woodlands became eligible to incorporate as a municipality. The Regional Participation Agreement protects The Woodlands from annexation through November 16, 2057. The Woodlands in Focus continually strives to be an exhaustive repository of fact-based information. The issue of incorporation has recently become a topic of discussion in The Woodlands, and the impacts of changing to this mode of governance must be thoroughly researched and discussed.
Township Board Chairman Bunch spoke about his vision for the community, saying “I want our township to be an example for all the cities in Texas, our country, and the world as well.” The success of The Woodlands is easily summed up but not so easily done, Bunch said. It’s all about “the quality of life, our first-class amenities, our low tax rates, a vibrant local economy and what I call intentional investment," he said.
That “intentional investment” includes expansion of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion – making it the number two venue of its kind on Earth – as well as the expansion of The Woodlands Mall, the largest generator of sales taxes in the township. Bunch also pointed out that when residents were asked what words accurately describe The Woodlands, the number one response was "beautiful."
I served as the Town Center Improvement District (TCID) representative on Sen. Tommy Williams' committee that developed the "regional participation agreements" with the City of Houston and Conroe. We are protected from annexation per the agreements until 2057 and since it is after June 2014, we now have the ability to incorporate whenever we choose.
If or when Woodlands residents decide to incorporate, that will seal our fate financially and geographically. While our county taxes will remain the same, we will get no more county sheriff’s support, maintenance, and upkeep of our roads, etc. We will then incur the FULL cost for a police force, a city maintenance organization, city council and added staff support, which now in part are shared with the county.
...Our leadership today and for the future must take on the responsibility to educate us so we can make an informed decision on how much extra tax burden we are individually willing to incur to become a municipality. Personally, I don’t understand the sense of urgency to start the process today towards incorporation.
The Woodlands In Focus recently submitted an Open Records Request with The Woodlands Township to get copies of all of the Township's Incorporation Impact studies and memos (2012 to 2016). The Township was prompt and responsive to the request.
Though these documents self disclose that they are not official tax rate studies, they were commissioned to project the estimated revenues, costs, and property tax rate impacts of incorporation (based on assumptions approved by the Township staff and/or Board). Below are the three PDFs provided by the Township (arranged chronologically) from February 10, 2012 through September 23, 2016.
By state law, we can incorporate any time between now and 2057 to avoid annexation by Houston and Conroe. The Regional Participation Agreements between the Township and both Houston and Conroe were entered into pursuant to the express authority of Section 43.0754, Texas Local Government Code which provides in subsection (l) that any such agreement is incontestable in any court in Texas.
While the Texas Legislature may amend or repeal this Section at its discretion, it cannot invalidate these agreements or rewrite the historical fact that the agreements were duly made under this legislation without violating federal and state constitutional prohibitions against legislative impairments of existing contracts.
Therefore, we have over 40 years in front of us to determine the best path and time for incorporation. Traveling down this path will require some legislative changes, prudent planning by our Township and working together as a community. It's not a race! It's a commitment to keep property taxes low and to preserve The Woodlands' quality of life.
Our success is not accidental. Certain things have been done to keep us on track.
First and foremost, Mr. Mitchell’s vision and implementation.
Another is when former Senator Tommy Williams, Representative Rob Eissler and other community leaders led the charge at the Texas Capitol to give us the unique township form of choosing our own destiny, meaning less taxes and less government.
Today, our unique “Township” form of government, technically a “Special District,” provides a broad range of essential services not provided by our County and does so at a relatively low cost. We have a very efficient alternative form of government. So why incorporate until we are forced to do so? If not threatened by annexation, what factors would justify the complexity and cost of becoming a city? Will the residents be willing to pay a higher tax rate to incorporate? For what additional services? Incorporation will deliver even fewer County services than we receive today but with no lower County taxes. These are areas where many will have opinions, often differing from one another.
- Complete Incorporation Impact Documentation (September 2016)
- Incorporation Analysis Memo (April 2016)
- VIDEO: Jon Hockenyos of TXP Presents The Woodlands Incorporation Fiscal Impact Study (2016 Update)
- REPORT: Fiscal Impact of Incorporation of The Woodlands (2016 Update)
- 2015 Budget Planning Initiative Summary Review of Incorporation Cost and Issues
- The Woodlands Incorporation Study: Financial Model and Results (Feb. 2012)
- The Woodlands Incorporation Study: Financial Assumptions (Nov. 2011)
- The Woodlands Township Timeline
- The Woodlands Township Governance