Will Harris County flooding problems get addressed?
Well, voters in Harris County sure hope so, as they overwhelmingly approved a $2.5 billion bond package this past Saturday, August 25, which will fund critical flood-control projects.
The bond passed easily, with approximately 86 percent of Harris County residents voting for the ballot referendum – a year to the day that Hurricane Harvey left the devastation of flood waters across the Greater Houston area.
According to Harris County leaders, Harris County residents essentially voted to finance a 10- to 15-year program of flood mitigation projects that will include drainage improvements, upgraded warning systems, infrastructure repairs, home buyouts, and construction of more detention basins. The county’s Budget Management Department has estimated that the bond issue will only result in an overall tax rate increase of 2-3 cents per $100 assessed valuation, which simply means that most homeowners will only see an increase of no more than 1.4 percent in their property tax after all bonds were sold. Important to note also – homeowners with an over-65 or disabled exemption and a home assessed at $200,000 or less will pay no additional taxes.
“After a series of catastrophic floods in recent years, Harris County residents rightly expect major improvements in the way we protect our homes and residents from disaster,” said Emmett. “We all saw the way that Texans helped Texans during the Memorial Day floods of 2015, the Tax Day floods of 2016 and Hurricane Harvey last year. Now is our chance to work together to protect each other proactively.”
Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Ellis amended the original bond language to include a requirement that the dollars be spent in an equitable fashion, with community input, which means that the funds from the bond give traditionally underserved areas the opportunity to break that cycle of vulnerability and ensure that flood-vulnerable communities receive equitable funding for needed flood control.
“By passing Prop A, those who voted made it clear that we must effectively address flood control— one of the greatest challenges we face,” said Commissioner Ellis. “We owe it to everyone to ensure that urgently needed flood control projects are funded equitably and transparently so that every community is protected from future floods. We still have a lot of work to do to educate and engage the public so that they can better understand where and how these dollars will be spent on flood control, especially in hard-hit and vulnerable neighborhoods that have long been neglected and under-funded. Throughout this process, I have made it clear that equity, transparency and resiliency must be at the center of the decision-making process for funding flood control projects. Voters have my commitment that I will continue to advocate for transparency and equitable funding for flood mitigation to foster resiliency and protect all neighborhoods.”
Harris County has the ability to draw down billions in dollars in federal funds to fix its bayous, build massive detention, acquire and preserve floodplain and improve neighborhood drainage. According to Emmett, this bond will allow Harris County to put up the required local match in order to draw down those funds. The bond will also include funding to build a state of the art flood warning system to better protect neighborhoods in the future. There will also be hundreds of millions of dollars available to do projects inside of the city of Houston, including a $175 million fund to partner with the city of Houston on neighborhood drainage projects.
Now that the bond has passed, it allows the Harris County Flood Control District to move forward on at roughly 230 projects over the next 10 to 15 years and will allow them to access more than $2 billion in matching federal dollars because of this decision by the voters.
It will be important that Harris County residents stay engaged with what is happening with their taxpayer approved dollars that are to go towards funding these important projects to address flooding. To stay on top of the proposed project list and for more information about what is happening with your tax dollars for flooding, please visit the “Bond Program” website at