For the past 12 years, the City of Houston has promised to take $11.80 of every $100 collected from property taxes to fund drainage projects, an effort taxpayers voted for on the 2010 ballot since the city has been known to flood.
However, since 2016, Houston has exploited a legal loophole to avoid paying the entirety of the promised funds. When the initiative, currently named Build Houston Forward, was created, it included an amendment to address the likely changes in property tax rates. It added that the city would use $11.8 of every $100 of taxable property or “an amount equivalent.”
While it was supposed to allow flexibility with changing property tax rates, the city has used the “amount equivalent” phrase to short the promised funding to the Build Houston Forward initiative, as the City has not disclosed how they calculate the equivalent amount.
Even when the city was forced to release documents during a lawsuit regarding their drainage funding, none of the documents revealed how they calculate the equivalent amount. There were, however, two fully redacted pages that the lawsuit plaintiffs believe contained the calculations.
Had the city delivered on its promised ratio, drainage and street projects would have seen $2.7 billion in funding over the past 12 years. Another option proposed by West Street Recovery, which suggested the drainage funds stay proportional to the city’s property tax revenue (18.5 percent of property tax revenues), would have seen $2.3 billion in funds.
Instead, Build Houston Forward has only received $1.8 billion in its lifetime.
Alexandra del Moral Mealer, an Army veteran and former contender for Harris’ county judge, responded on Twitter after the Houston Chronicle reported on the funding discrepancy of Build Houston Forward:
— Alexandra del Moral Mealer (@alexmealer) July 10, 2023