Photo by Andrew Richardson
During an Aug. 3 special meeting called to discuss the issue, The Woodlands Township Board of Directors voted to delay a potential 2014 vote on incorporating as a city or to remain a township.
Under the statute that created the township form of government for The Woodlands, and subsequently freed the master-planned community from possible annexation by the cities of Conroe and Houston, a vote on whether or not to incorporate must be held at some point in the next 50 years. The first opportunity to have that vote is in May 2014.
Chairman Bruce Tough explained the board had spent 18 months conducting an active, in-depth public outreach program and engagement process designed to inform residents about what incorporation means and to receive as much feedback as possible on the community's opinion concerning whether or not it would like to remain a township.
“We really wanted community input,” Tough said, “And we had an overwhelming response from the community that said, 'We like the Woodlands Township, and we're not prepared to become a city now.'”
Tough said the two major issues concerning the board, as well as many residents, had to do with the water and sewage systems and absorbing the responsibility of paying for county roads.
“We will have to rehabilitate the water and sewage systems as they age, especially sooner in areas of the community like Grogan's Mill and Panther Creek,” Tough said.
He went on to explain how the township would incur responsibility of the upkeep, maintenance and construction of county roads.
“We would absorb that cost as our own and there would be no reduction in the county tax rate,” said Tough.
He said the board had discussed all of these issues and more, coming to the conclusion that the four-year-old township model is working, and very well, at that.
“Eighty-five percent of our residents feel our results are very good and are very pleased with what we're doing,” he said. “Simply put: the board felt there was no urgent need to hold an election to vote on incorporation.”
Under incorporation, The Woodlands would potentially be facing a significant increase in property taxes. According to a study conducted by Partners for Strategic Action, the firm hired to conduct incorporation studies for the township, the property tax in The Woodlands would need to be increased by more than 78 percent, to 58.14 cents in order to provide the same level of service to residents.
The incorporation model also suggested The Woodlands would need to hire an additional 194 employees to fully staff the departments and offices that would need to be established.