As the election for The Woodlands township board of directors heats up, accusations are flying and conflicting facts are being thrown around about the one issue that has dominated the conversation: incorporation.
Some politicians, rather than talking about their voting records, have resorted to spreading misinformation and warn of a massive impending tax increase due to “rushed incorporation” unless, of course, they are elected.
After sustaining heavy criticism for putting the interests of county officials and developers above those of The Woodlands residents, former township chairman Bruce Tough was unseated in the 2015 election. Tough’s defeat came shortly after he supported a bond package containing the unpopular Woodlands Parkway extension, which roughly 8 in 10 voters in The Woodlands opposed.
With incumbent Mike Bass, who also supported the Woodlands Parkway extension, now up for re-election, Tough has re-emerged onto the political scene with the creation of an astro-turf organization labeled as “The Woodlands Concerned Taxpayers.” TWCT has repeatedly propagated the claim that if Bass and the rest of their slate are not re-elected, Director Gordy Bunch and others who they claim support “rushed incorporation” will “incorporate now,” causing a “70% tax increase.”
While Bass repeats TWCT’s misleading claims on the campaign trail, Tough’s organization has hired canvassers from out of state to distribute door hangers with misleading rhetoric about incorporation in order to scare voters into pulling the lever for their slate of candidates.
However, neither Bunch, nor any other board member has ever made any kind of motion for incorporation. In fact, when pressed by local activists to provide quotes where Bunch supposedly supported “rushed incorporation,” Tough’s organization failed to provide any documentation.
The TWCT claim that incorporation would cause a “70% tax increase” is also misleading. Tough’s group inaccurately cites an outdated fiscal impact analysis by the township from 2012. However, the financial assumptions in the study are largely speculative, and the study is not a tax rate study and does not calculate what the tax rate would be after incorporation, which the study itself explicitly states:
“This fiscal impact analysis is intended to estimate the approximate costs and revenues associated with the potential change in governance. It is not a tax rate study and the actual tax rates that would be imposed on the date of incorporation are not being calculated.”
No qualified tax rate study has been conducted to determine incorporation’s impact on property taxes. That fact was confirmed by The Woodlands township general manager Don Norrell when he was questioned by Bunch at a recent township meeting.
Even Bass at the same meeting stated, “I agree with Director Bunch 100% because I don’t think were at the point to have any definitive cost study.” However, just a few days later Bass shared TWCT post on Facebook claiming that there were studies which “reported” a 70% tax increase.
This would not be the first time Bass has flip-flopped on an issue. Under pressure from the county, he voted to use The Woodlands residents’ taxes to pay for a customs facility at the Lone Star Executive Airport, which is not even located in The Woodlands. Bass would later reverse his vote when the item was brought up again before an election.
Incorporation would give The Woodlands more control over how their local taxes are spent and what thoroughfares pass through the community, rather than having these issues decided by an often hostile Montgomery County Commissioners Court.
The real issue in this election is not “rushed incorporation”, but whether The Woodlands township board of directors is going to put the residents first, or continue to allow their destiny to be dictated to them by Montgomery County politicians and special interests.