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 financially, told 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 Works. We hope you have a better experience than this Houston resident Texas Watchdog reported on in November.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.
Photo of umbrella by flickr user Special, used via a Creative Commons license.