in Houston, Texas
At Mayor Annise Parker's house, drainage tax higher than Renew Houston backers advertised. Is your tax higher, too?
Thursday, May 12, 2011, 05:46PM CST
By Steve Miller

Taxpayers are finding the new drainage tax, which voters approved last year to fund infrastructure improvements, is costing a bit more than presented.

Exhibit #1: Two properties owned by Mayor Annise Parker, who lobbied hard for the fee, and whose bill on one property is almost three times as much as estimates trotted out last year by supporters of the ballot measure. Renew Houston, which advocated and backed the measure financiallytold the public in July to expect an average bill of $60 a year.

For an average Houston homeowner with a 5,000-square-foot lot and a 2,500-square-foot home, the fee would be about $5 a month.

Parker’s home on Westmoreland Street is 4,386 square feet, or about 75 percent larger than the average home in the Renew Houston estimates. But her bill of $13.48 a month is a whopping 170 percent larger than the $5 benchmark, according to calculations from the city's website designed to help property owners estimate their bills.


Consider next the 1,620-square-foot property Parker co-owns on Montrose Boulevard. Following the referendum backers' estimates, Parker's bill should fall under $5, but the actual cost will be nearly three times as much at $14.14 a month. The business property appears to have a parking lot, based on a GoogleMaps street view, but even if the entire 6,516-square-foot lot was covered in the "hard surfaces" that the tax is based on, the bill still comes out about a dollar on the high side.


That brings Parker's total annual bill to $331.


"The $5 was based on 1,875 square feet," said Janice Evans, the mayor's spokeswoman. "I don’t know what Renew Houston was saying. She supported the ballot initiative, but they ran their own campaign."


Evans also said variations in "impervious cover" like paved walkways could boost a bill beyond the average of $5.


How does your bill for this new tax look? Is it higher than the $5 a month? If so, Evans said the matter can be appealed.


The agency that will hear that appeal? Public WorksWe hope you have a better experience than this Houston resident Texas Watchdog reported on in November.



Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or

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Photo of umbrella by flickr user Special, used via a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, 05/12/2011 - 09:36PM

My bill came out to just over $13.30/month, well over the $5/month advertised. That's on a house about 1,800 sq-ft plus a 2-car garage. I don't mind paying more for increased drainage, but this wasn't the deal I thought I was signing up for...

Friday, 05/13/2011 - 05:35PM

I too was expecting in the $5 range...but my 1600 sf plus garage house comes in over $13 a month. Average sized lot here...nothing unusual.

Friday, 05/13/2011 - 05:42PM

Roll back Proposition 1, or have a new election now that people know how much they will be charged. Exemptions were granted AFTER the election.

Friday, 05/13/2011 - 11:17PM

Has Mayor Parker released her 2010 tax return yet? I believe that was a big Texas Watchdog issue in 2009, how Parker released her but Locke did not for several weeks after that.

Will you be pressuring Parker? (By the way, I think she didn't release her 2009 return, after being all braggy about how transparent she was about her 2008 return.)

Jay Purcell
Saturday, 05/14/2011 - 11:06AM

The method of using impervious surface (house,etc) to determine the fee is flawed. Where does the water go that drains off your house, garage, etc. - hopely in your flower beds and yard. Very little goes to the street drains. There is no direct relationship to the basis and the fee. Also, the voters gave the Mayor a blank check and she is now filling in the amount, greatly in excess of the amount used to justify the whole project. Your goverment at work concerning campaign promises.

Sunday, 05/15/2011 - 05:21AM

don't want to be a cynic but I've come to believe all governments from national to local, lied each & every time, I have 1500', small lot, older area & almost 15/mo not what the voters agreed to

Wednesday, 05/25/2011 - 09:04PM

houston homeowner
Tuesday, 06/07/2011 - 11:14PM

The impervious square footage in my statement was over 4 times what I actually have. Now, to appeal this, I am required to provide drawings or other documentation showing the actual area. City of Houston never provided me with any back-up information on how they came up with this bogus number. Also, if you look at their website, they list gravel as an impervious surface. I've never seen gravel hold water before.

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