in Houston, Texas
Special taxing districts - like the Montrose Management District in Houston - proliferate
Thursday, Dec 01, 2011, 09:14AM CST
By Trent Seibert
montrose

You may have seen Texas Watchdog reporter Steve Miller’s story this week on a Houston taxing district that just won’t go away -- and its deep connections to Mayor Annise Parker.

The Montrose Management District, he reported, is led by a board of 15 appointees, two-thirds of whom have financial or domestic ties to Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Along with employees of the district they've given her nearly $50,000 in political donations since 2007.

The district was thrust into the news when a group of business owners subject to the tax rallied around the Stop the District banner to overturn the taxing entity.

Will they be successful? Who knows.

We do know, this, though: Special taxing districts aren’t going away any time soon. And, in fact, they are a major growth industry in Texas.

Texas Watchdog reported earlier this year about how Texas politicians just love creating these obscure districts with little oversight -- but lots of power to tax. The graphic below showing the growth of these districts says it all.
Growing governments photo illustration
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The “rapid spread” of special districts was also pointed out in a research paper penned 15 years ago by a group of University of Texas grad students, who said the districts “preserve the myth of limited government while insulating local public officials from citizen complaints about inadequate service performance or mandatory taxes.”
 
All together, the number of special government districts in Texas has quadrupled since 1952, and has gone up by a quarter in the last 30 years alone, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

There are now nearly 2,300 special districts in Texas, not counting school systems. According to the state comptroller’s office, those special districts range from the very large -- such as the agency that manages Houston’s two major safety-net hospitals for the poor and uninsured, which collects $530 million in property taxes a year -- to the very tiny, covering or serving just a few people, such as North Fort Worth Water Control & Improvement District No. 1, which collected a grand total of $85 in property taxes from its constituents in 2008.
Give the whole thing a read, and give your tax bill a very good going over.

***
Contact Trent Seibert at trent@texaswatchdog.org or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibert or@texaswatchdog.

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Photo of ‘Montrose’' by flickr user MikeRastiello, used via a Creative Commons license.
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