Houston may exempt some from new drainage fee

March 25, 2011 3:25:47 PM PDT
Mayor Annise Parker announced Friday that she will ask City Council next week to approve a new plan that exempts schools and churches from paying the drainage fee hike and help residents who can't afford it.

The Rebuild Houston funding plan would set aside $500,000 to help the cash-strapped organizations and assist the disabled, senior citizens and low-income residents who cannot afford the drainage charge.

"I presented the draft Rebuild Houston Ordinance on February 6, 2011," Parker said in a prepared statement. "It was exactly as I promised voters, with no exemptions and everyone paying their fair share. After 10 town hall meetings, two public hearings, and discussions with council members, I believe this new plan properly balances community needs. I promised Houston homeowners this would cost them about $5 a month. The calculations indicate we can keep that promise while still helping our cash-strapped schools and our churches, and providing assistance to those who can't afford the fee."

The city charter amendment approved by Houston voters last fall mandates the imposition of a new drainage fee to raise a minimum of $125 million annually for a dedicated, pay-as-you-go, street and drainage improvement program. Funds raised from the fee must be placed in a lock box and cannot be used for other city needs.

For efficiency and cost-savings, the city intends to bill property owners, when possible, by including the fee on city water bills. Billing is scheduled to begin in July.

Houston City Council will be briefed on details of the new fee, assistance plan and enforcement mechanism at a committee meeting at 2:30pm Monday. City Council will be asked to vote on the plan Wednesday.