City Council lays out Prop 1 drainage fees

September 29, 2010 4:11:24 PM PDT
City leaders Wednesday laid out their feelings about a controversial drainage fee that soon just about every property owner in Houston may be required to pay. It will be up to you. This November voters will decide whether Houstonians should pick up the tab for the city's outdated drainage problems.

Proposition 1 is a ballot initiative that will implement a pay as you go drainage improvement plan if passed by voters. But just how will those fees be assessed to homeowners? We now have some answers from City Hall.

Little Fiona may be too young to understand, but her dad Bernard Bodman knows. Drainage in the city of Houston is an issue, but that doesn't mean he's quite ready to vote for a drainage fee.

"The thing that I'm worried is that fee goes in, stirred in a big pot, and sometimes things get done and sometimes they don't," said Bodman.

Today, Mayor Annise Parker laid out a detailed drainage fee plan - if the proposal gets voter approval this November.

"It's based on the square footprint of your home. If you have a tall skinny home, you would pay less than someone with a sprawling ranch," said Mayor Parker.

Mayor Parker says the average homeowner will pay about $5 a month if the drainage fee is passed. Getting to that number is a complicated process. If you live on a street with a curb and gutter drainage, your fee will be calculated on a $0.032 per square foot a year for total "hard areas," i.e. house footprint, driveway and porch.

If you live on a street with open ditches, fees calculated will be $0.026 per square feet per year.

The average house with driveway included has a 1,900 square feet footprint. If that house is on a street with a curb and gutter, the monthly drainage fee will be just over $5. If that same house was on a street with an open drainage system, the fee will be about $4.12.

Examples:

Curb and Gutter Street
Typical lot size: 5,000 sq ft
Typical house ground floor/garage/driveway: 1,900 sq feet
Monthly Fee: (1900 x .032)/12 = $5.07 per month

Open Ditch Street
Typical lot size: 5,000 sq ft
Typical house ground floor/garage/driveway: 1,900 sq feet
Monthly Fee: (1900 x .026)/12 = $4.12 per month

The formula worried Council Member Jolanda Jones. Tensions were raised when she accused another council member of having too much influence over the numbers.

Jones: "You and I can have that conversation away from here."
Mayor: "No, ma'am. I will challenge you on that."
Jones: "Since we're going there, Council Member Costello has been involved with this from the beginning."
Mayor: "Council Member Costello did not draft this document."

In the end, the decision will not be up to council members on whether a fee will be assessed, but rather voters like Bernard Bodman who is still waffling on his decision.

"I would probably say yes, because there are other places that have drainage issues," Bodman said.

By state law, public and private colleges and universities would be exempt. However, school districts, non profits and churches would pay the drainage fees.

The city's proposed assessment formula would also not be raised for 10 years. After that, if the assessment needs to be raised, it will have to have approval by two-thirds of city council.

So, if it passes, here's what you can expect to pay. It involves a little bit of math, but we've got all the details on how to calculate your own drainage fee for your property below:

How to calculate your drainage fee:

Go to your property page on HCAD.org

Find the "PRI" data on the lower right side (typical is 1375)

Curb and gutter street: PRI number x 1.38 x .032 = yearly fee. Divide that by 12 to get your monthly fee

Open ditch street: PRI number x 1.38 x .026 = yearly fee. Divide that by 12 to get your monthly fee


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