KATY (Covering Katy News) – It is now almost impossible for the unincorporated areas of Katy to be annexed by Houston after Senate Bill 6 became law on Dec. 1, 2017.
“I’m proud to sign legislation ending forced annexation practices, which is nothing more than a form of taxation without representation,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in signing the bill into law on Aug. 15.
Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers is one of the lawmakers who, for years, has been fighting Houston’s power to tax the people of Fort Bend County. He does not like Houston’s power because the money taken from residents of Fort Bend County is not spent to benefit the people who paid the taxes. The recent passage of Senate Bill 6 has gotten little publicity, perhaps because the Houston based media likes the control their city has over millions of us who live in the suburbs.
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“In order for an annexation to take place, every resident would have to approve of the annexation,” said Meyers. “That makes it impossible,” he added. Meyers noted that if only one resident were to vote against annexation, then by law the City of Houston can’t annex the property.
Meyers says the next step is to pass a bill that allows residents to vote themselves out of an extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ as it’s more commonly known. It would essentially be an independence vote from the City of Houston. Such a bill is a longshot given that lobbying power of the state’s largest cities.
Meyers has long fought the current system that allows the City of Houston to place a sales tax on goods purchased in many Katy-area locations. He says the tax is placed on goods sold here without any regard to whether the tax money Houston raises is spent in the Katy area.
Supporters of the current system point out that Houston has to split its portion of the money raised with a local municipal utility district. While that may help MUDs pay down debt, the City of Houston gets to spend its half of the tax money raised on projects that are not in Katy, and MUDs only have a limited scope. For example, MUDs don’t build roads that can alleviate congestion. They can build beautiful parks, and provide sewer services, but they can’t fix traffic problem caused by growth in Katy. Much of Meyers time is spent planning the next road that fixes the problem of roadway congestion.
If the unincorporated areas of Katy could vote to become independent from Houston it would be possible for those areas to incorporate as their own cities. There could eventually be a City of Cinco Ranch, for example.
Meyers also notes that under the current system, the City of Houston gets to approve every road in the Katy area that is in its ETJ.
Another problem that came up during the flooding of Hurricane Harvey was that county commissioners could not have emergency meetings as one single group.
“We could not all meet with the county judge because of the open meetings act,” Meyers said.
The open meetings act requires a government meeting to be announced to the public three days before it takes place.
Meyers pointed out that if unincorporated areas were incorporated as their own cities and towns, there would be municipal staff available to go to emergency meetings. Right now, Meyers is basically the staff of unincorporated Fort Bend County. There is no other expert to send to vital meetings. He has a very small staff that represents more residents than many cities in Texas.
“It made it difficult to get quality information during the flooding,” Myers said.
Meyers says the Houston area has a problem with ETJs that are not found in other parts of the state. He says Houston has a very high population that lives in its ETJs. Most major cities in Texas, he says, only have a small percentage of people who live in their ETJs, he said.
He notes that they are taking tax money that’s needed to serve millions of people, and spending that money in Houston instead of the unincorporated areas.
Houston controls a great deal of Fort Bend County. All you have to do is look at the population of the county that lives in Houston’s ETJ.
“Houston is the third largest city in Fort Bend County,” Meyers said.