Commish: More state funds needed as unincorporated Harris County grows

September 18, 2012 2:42:15 PM PDT
It's no surprise there is growth in unincorporated parts of Harris County. But is it too much, too fast? It's that rapid growth rate and the lack of funds from the state that has one county commissioner urging a group of lawmakers to step in and make some changes.

Right now more than 1.6 million people live in unincorporated Harris County and if areas like this are to continue growing, county leaders say the state needs to pump a lot more money back into these parts.

"This is all unincorporated," said Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack.

He knows all about growth in unincorporated parts of Harris County. His northwest area, Precinct 3, is one of the fastest growing right now. But Radack says with that boost comes some big financial challenges for the county.

"Frankly, we need to start getting our pro-rata share of things we deserve," he told Eyewitness News.

The commissioner was among several people called to speak before the State House of Representatives' committee on county affairs on Tuesday morning. They were tackling issues arising from population growth in unincorporated areas across the state.

"Obviously, it's a stress on our law enforcement efforts. It's a tremendous amount of people who find their way into the Harris County Hospital District," Radack said.

Lawmakers recognized counties may need more resources and money to keep up with the challenges of maintaining infrastructure like water lines, roads, bridges and parks in growing areas.

"We're trying to figure this out. We may not get very far, but we may," said Rep. Garnet Coleman.

Radack ended his presentation with a big suggestion for lawmakers; a suggestion he believes could help counties keep some money in unincorporated areas.

"Since the city is not annexing, allow the county to have a sales tax in the unincorporated area, equal to what the city has," said Radack.

Members of the House committee will draft a report and present that to other lawmakers in Austin where they'll ultimately decide if any laws should be changed.

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