Sealing Our Fate Financially and Geographically Following Incorporation
The questions to those presently pushing for incorporation: What do you expect to gain, or more importantly, what can we all lose if we incorporate? Will incorporation stop progress in North Harris and South Montgomery Counties?
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.
More importantly, we have nowhere to expand our tax base because we are landlocked when it comes to exercising "extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ)." There is Magnolia to the west, Houston to the south, Conroe and Shenandoah to the north, and Oak Ridge to the east. Their city limit or ETJ boundaries are the common boundary of The Woodlands Township. ETJ is how Texas cities in high growth areas feed the insatiable need to increase their tax revenue base.
The village shopping centers do not produce a great amount of sales tax revenue because their anchor stores are in the grocery business where food items are not taxable, and therefore do not contribute to the sales tax base. The largest amount of sales tax revenue comes from Town Center.
Because commercial development is basically complete inside The Woodlands, there will be no more additional sources of sales tax revenue in the future which helps to keep our property taxes lower. And by the way, sales tax revenue in The Woodlands Township comes more from non-Woodlands residents. THEIR money helps reduce OUR tax burden.
Therefore, in the future, if you can't increase the sales tax base, the ad valorem (property tax) must increase to meet the increasing costs of managing a municipality that must fend for itself with no state or county assistance.
With progress all around us, can incorporation isolate us and stop people from driving though The Woodlands to other destinations? What about the history of the extension and expansion in the incorporated City of Houston relative to FM 1960, Westheimer, Memorial Drive, Kuykendahl, and above all the Interstate Highway Systems of this country?
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.