Harris County Tax Assessor: Is Mayor hiding behind AG on drainage fee records request?
Office of Don Sumners
Harris County, Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Fred King, Fred.King@tax.hctx.net
713-368-2515, 832-421-8408 cell
Cindy Reyna, Cindy.Reyna@tax.hctx.net
Is Mayor hiding behind AG on drainage fee records request?
City’s calculations look wrong, will raise more than stated, Sumners told her weeks ago
HOUSTON – March 7, 2011 — The Houston City Council is close to voting on the Proposition 1 drainage fee despite being warned on Jan. 28 that the city’s calculations appear wrong and will take about $35 million more than advertised, Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners said Monday.
“Five weeks later, all I’ve gotten is bureaucratic baloney as the city uses the Texas Attorney General to help it hide the facts,” Sumners said. “By delaying the release of this crucial public information, the city would keep the public misinformed until the ordinance is passed. On Feb. 22, the city referred me to the very presentation I am questioning.
“The city’s presentation is pretty,” he said. “It mentions things like ‘Color Aerial Imagery (orthogonally corrected)’ and ‘Oblique-Derived Building Footprint Polygons.’ But, the math appears wrong.”
“Houston’s published numbers don’t add up. And, no surprise, the apparent error or errors would take many millions more from taxpayers than the city acknowledges,” Sumners said. “In difficult economic times like these, why would the City want to assess their taxpayers $35 million more than the minimum amount required by Proposition 1? After all, the $125 million minimum is the equivalent of a 13% property tax increase. Maybe they plan to soak us even more,” Sumners said
On Jan. 28, Sumners sent a letter to Mayor Annise Parker, and every council member got a copy.
“I asked for basic information that the city used in calculating the revenue it says the drainage fee will generate. My letter, a Public Information Act request, questioned the city’s calculations published in a city presentation titled Rebuild Houston Phase 2 and dated Jan. 26, 2011.” (See http://www.rebuildhouston.org/downloads/mayor-report-830-rev.pdf.)
“I pointed out that the city projects revenue of $30,935,076 from ‘Residential – Single Family (Curb & Gutter)’ but, if calculated with the city’s figures in the Rebuild Houston presentation, the projected revenue should be $38,424,799. That’s more than 24 percent higher than the total the city published. And, there seem to be similar or worse errors in the presentation’s other three property categories. In the Non-Residential category, the largest, the city’s revenue calculation appears to be too low by 31%.
“My letter said, ‘Without release of the requested data one can only speculate about the completeness of the City’s data and the correctness of its Drainage Fee calculations.’ After waiting this long for a straight answer, I think I was too gentle five weeks ago.”
(For copies of letters and calculations, see http://www.hctax.net/images/news/DrainageFee.pdf.)