Judge Ed Emmett kicks-off early voting for $2.5 billion flood bond proposal

HOUSTON— Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and the Harris County Flood Control District kicked-off early voting for the new flood bond at a press conference Thursday.

Early voting for the 2.5 billon dollar bond officially begin Wednesday, August 8, and will run through Friday, August 21.

In an effort to inform and engage the community in developing the bond proposal, the Flood Control District hosted 23 community meetings – at least one in each county watershed – in June, July and August. In addition, county officials, including the four county commissioners and myself, have participated in numerous neighborhood association and civic group meetings. Community members were encouraged to review projects that could be undertaken with bond funding, to ask questions, and to suggest additional projects that could reduce flooding risks in their neighborhoods.

“This is the easiest type of election in which voters may participate because there is only one item on the ballot,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, the chief election officer of the County.

Nearly 4,000 residents attended these meetings. This process resulted in a list of 237 proposed projects that will be presented to Harris County Commissioners Court on Aug. 14.

Of those projects, 38 were added as a result of the community engagement process, which also resulted in more than 2,400 comments and suggestions from the public.

The list includes projects to improve bayou and channel conveyance of stormwater, to build stormwater detention basins, to preserve the floodplain, and to buy out flood-prone homes. Importantly, bond funds would be used to provide the local match needed to attract larger amounts of federal money for flood risk reduction projects, and to partner with Harris County and other entities to improve subdivision drainage.

Bond proceeds also would provide for local-only projects in areas that may not meet federal cost-benefit requirements, but are needed and would help the most people.

The Flood Control District intends to use the bonds over a 10-15 year period. Based on a likely borrowing schedule over approximately 15 years, the Harris County Budget Management Department estimates that the overall tax increase would be no more than 2 to 3 cents per $100 of assessed home valuation, meaning that most homeowners would see an increase of no more than 1.4 percent in their property tax.

Because of county property tax exemptions, homeowners with an over 65 or disabled homestead exemption on a home assessed at $200,000 or less would pay no additional taxes for these bonds.