The council at a special meeting Aug. 12 will put finishing touches on a $76.7 million bond proposition, the city’s first since 2013, to address drainage and other concerns.
While the final number is the biggest bond referendum in recent Friendswood memory and could raise taxes between 5 and 9 cents, some residents think it still isn’t as much as it should be.
“Don’t shortchange on the dollars for the projects,” Friendswood resident Phillip Ratisseau urged the council Monday. “There are a number of individuals who will work to support this.”
Ratisseau’s comments, echoed by several speakers at Monday’s meeting, are particularly surprising given his family’s opposition to other recent area bond elections. Ratisseau and his wife, Connie Ratisseau, were both members of the political action committee Citizens for CCISD that formed in 2017 to oppose Clear Creek Independent School district’s proposed $487 million bond issue that eventually passed.
The council signed off on six different propositions for parks, transportation improvements, building a community center and shelter, public safety improvements, constructing a public works facility and for drainage. But of those, drainage is by far the largest, with a price tag of about $41 million, up from $34 million originally proposed, officials said.
Though the council approved increasing the amount for drainage, it was not as much of an increase as the $56 million Connie Ratisseau said they should be asking for.
Drainage and flooding improvements have weighed heavily on residents’ minds since Hurricane Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of Galveston County in late August 2017. While the city must spend money to make those improvements, even $56 million wouldn’t be enough to fully fund the projects, City Manager Morad Kabiri argued Monday.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s $32 million, $50 million or $100 million, it’s not going to be enough to fix the problem,” he said. “We are going to have to have other partners. The city is going to take these dollars and go out and try to solicit partnerships with various other agencies.”
City administrators have been talking about the possibility of a bond referendum since at least January. A drainage committee in April recommended spending $32 million on drainage projects to reduce Harvey-like flooding, mainly by improving flow along Clear Creek by de-snagging, creating a terrace along the banks and raising the bridge at FM 2351.
Initial estimates show the cost of all of those improvements might reach $175 million, officials have said. The amount included in the bond proposition, then, is based on a percentage of that total cost that city administrators hope would be enough to solicit outside help.
If voters approve the bond, it will be on the city to make sure the projects become reality, Councilwoman Trish Hanks said.
“It’s a hard sell telling people you’re not selling those bonds until you have a partner,” she said. “In my experience, people want to see the results of what they vote for. My fear is that if all of the other things pass and the tax rate goes up, they’ll expect to see drainage projects.”
In addition to the drainage bond, the council Monday approved $2 million for expanding the city’s public works building, $9.1 million for fire and public safety improvements, $9 million for a new community center and hurricane shelter, $7.6 million for transportation improvements and $8 million, rather than the lower $6.5 million cost, for parks improvements, records show.
City officials estimate that the bond propositions, if approved in total, could increase taxes between 5 and 9 cents, Kabiri said.
That would mean the city’s property tax rate could increase to 58.27 cents on every $100 of taxable value or 62.24 cents, up from 53.24 cents, according to city officials.
Though the council could still alter the cost of each of the propositions, they will weigh the language of the ordinance officially placing the items on the ballot at the special meeting, officials said.
The deadline to place an item on the November ballot is Aug. 19.
Friendswood voters in 2013 approved four bond propositions totaling about $24 million to spend on several projects.
League City voters in May overwhelmingly approved a pair of bond packages, valued at $145 million, to pay for major flood control and road projects, the city’s first propositions in 27 years.