The 2012 Harris County property tax rate will not increase from 62.9 cents per $100 of taxable value, but it has been slightly rebalanced after it was approved by commissioners in October.
During the mid-year budget review at Harris County Commissioners Court on Sept. 25, chief budget officer Bill Jackson proposed a shift of one penny from the Harris Health System, formerly known as the Harris County Hospital District, to the county’s debt service, which includes funding for flood control, roads and infrastructure.
“This year we can take the reduction, and we still think we can break even or better,” said David Lopez, Harris Health System CEO. “Next year is when it becomes very critical to get that penny back because ultimately when you take that penny, [worth] $26.5 million, and use it for an intergovernmental transfer, that would draw down federal matching, so that $26.5 million would become $63.4 million for us for the support of the people in our community.”
Commissioners also heard an update on the county’s flood control district, which will begin to do much less with much less, said Art Storey, director of public infrastructure for Harris County. The total tax rate for the district remains the same at 2.8 cents, but the general fund and debt service portions were rebalanced to increase the latter.
“The 2.8 cents [tax rate] was what it took to run the [flood control district] and cut the weeds, and the capital program was supported for almost a decade by debt,” he said. “We essentially have no ability to do anything other than pay the bills, and in fact we need to work with management services to do that going forward.”
Over the past decade that the district was supported by debt, it has gotten a lot done, ranging from enhanced channels to detention basins that provide flood control and park enhancements, Storey said.
“We’ve done a lot of projects, but we’ve accumulated a lot of debt, and it’s beyond our 2.8 cents capability to manage,” he said.