Metro’s board of directors will hold a special meeting to receive public comments on whether or not to end the diversion of transit sales taxes to 15 cities and unincorporated Harris County. The meeting will be June 18, 6-8 pm at 1900 Main street.
There is no need to sign up ahead of time; sign-up can happen upon arrival, Metro says.
The purpose of the meeting is to hear comments before the June 28 board meeting, when the directors are expected to decide on the ballot language for a November referendum on the issue.
For decades, Metro has been forced to give about 25% of its sales tax revenue to these other entities. A presentation at the last Metro board meeting showed that most of the cities and Harris County get back more than they contribute. Piney Point Village, for instance, will have contributed $1,492,000 million from 1988-2014, while receiving $23,571,000.
Many engineers in the region support the diversion of funds because the Rebuild Houston program, approved by voters in 2010, has a financial plan partly based on receiving the money from Metro, which would be used for roads and drainage projects.
The Houston Chronicle this week reported that Metro chairman Gilbert Garcia has called for freezing the payments at 2014 levels, allowing Metro to use the increment, if any, to expand and operate the transit system.
A graph that has circulated based on Metro research suggests that such a scheme would not enable selling bonds to begin work on the University rail line until about 2019, assuming sales taxes rise as projected.
That would mean that the University line would not be in service until about 2025, 13 years after it was promised to voters in 2003. Metro sources have indicated that much of the funds that have already been spent on the project would have to be re-spent, such as the Environmental Impact Statement.
At the Metro board meeting, Rice professor Stephen Klineberg reported that 55% of people in the new Kinder Houston Area Survey want the tax money to be used for transit, while 40% want it to be used for non-transit purposes.
For more information on the meeting, see the Metro Board notice.
For more information from the last Metro board meeting go here
[Note: Houston Tomorrow strongly supports spending all the transit sales tax on transit and urges the region’s leaders to recognize the value of the investment in transit in increasing the City’s tax base. See Houston Tomorrow’s president David Crossley’s remarks to Mayor Parker and City Council here. See commentary on this issue here and here.