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The Woodlands Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new buses September 10, 2014 Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu 3 of 4 View All Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu 4 of 4 View All Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu PrevNext Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu Township budget includes tax rate cut, more police hires, new bu The Woodlands Township’s 2014–15 fiscal year budget includes the community’s most dramatic property tax cut ever, along with $118.9 million in expenses that include new ventures into transportation, law enforcement and community services. The plan, approved Aug. 21 by the township board of directors, includes a 15 percent cut in property taxes for Woodlands homeowners, from $0.2940 cents per $100 of property valuation in fiscal year 2013–14 to $0.25 in fiscal year 2014–15. The township’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30. Township President Don Norrell said increases in sales and use tax as well as hotel occupancy tax collections resulted in the property tax rate cut. “This was a very unusual year,” he said. “I don’t think many communities will ever see this, and we may never see this again. But it all came together in 2014.” Property tax rate Township Financial Director Monique Sharp said the governing body typically aims to set the township’s property tax rate to the effective tax rate established by Montgomery County Tax-Assessor Collector J.R. Moore, which results in homeowners paying about the same tax bill each year. “This year, we went even lower, and people will see a real savings,” Sharp said. “Everybody will.” The average home value in The Woodlands in 2014 is $365,904. Based on that value, a homeowner’s tax bill in 2015 will be $915, $73 less than under the fiscal year 2013–14 tax rate when the average home value was $336,000. As has been the case in recent years, property tax revenue makes up less than half of the township’s total revenue. Of the $121 million the township is projected to earn in fiscal year 2014–15, property taxes will account for 34 percent of that amount. Sales tax, meanwhile, makes up 41 percent, while grants, hotel occupancy taxes and other revenue sources account for the remainder. Sharp said despite the abundance of retail stores and restaurants in The Woodlands that generate sales tax, those businesses only make up about half of the township’s sales and use tax revenue. The other half is generated from corporate business located in The Woodlands such as oil and gas companies, manufacturing and technology companies. “[The Woodlands] has certainly benefited from having a concentration of oil and gas companies,” Sharp said. “They touch so many of these different [tax revenue] categories, almost all of them.” Transportation Prior to 2013, the Brazos Transit District handled the operations of The Woodlands’ park and ride service and trolley service. Following a designation by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012 naming The Woodlands and Conroe as a large urbanized area, the township became responsible for handling and funding transit programs. The township will spend $18.3 million on transportation in fiscal year 2014–15, including $10.6 million on park and ride services that include five new buses. Other projects include $5 million for the development of a new Town Center transit facility and $1.8 million for the possible expansion of the trolley service. Norrell said grant money from the Federal Transportation Agency and the Houston-Galveston Area Council would fund half of those projects, leaving the township responsible for the remaining $9.5 million in costs. The township is expecting the results of a Town Center transit study conducted by the H-GAC to be released this fall, and Norrell said the results would likely dictate how the township board chooses to move forward with plans for both the transit center and the trolley service expansion. “Once the board has the full results back from the Town Center transit study, [the board will] determine what they want to do and will potentially look at some changes in the trolley system to operate as a transportation component,” Norrell said. Law enforcement The township is hiring nine additional deputies, two detectives and provide funds for mounted patrol units to work an additional 246 hours per week in Town Center. The new law enforcement personnel includes six additional Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office deputies, three new Harris County Precinct 4 constables to patrol the village of Creekside Park, one detective for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and one detective for the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. “Part of the things you look at [when considering hiring additional law enforcement] each year is what is happening with growth and what is happening in crime in some areas of the community,” Norrell said. He said one of the reasons for the increase in law enforcement personnel was because of increased crime in the area. “The world is changing a bit on the I-45 corridor. We saw more incidents and growing crime numbers, so we’re getting ahead of the curve,” Norrell said. Nancy Becker, president of the Creekside Park Village Association, said the constables who patrol The Woodlands’ newest village have usually served the area well, but they are often taken away from their normal patrol for other duties such as patrolling other areas. Becker said three more officers are a welcome addition. “I’m happy with it as long as the amount of coverage per area is the same as the rest of The Woodlands,” she said. Maintenance and parks The township will spend more than $5 million on parks and recreation projects, including $1.7 million in Town Center, $950,000 for park improvements, $467,000 for improvements to some community pools, and $595,000 for new development in Creekside. “The largest project that is going to take place is the building of the Gosling Sports Complex,” said Chris Nunes, township director of parks and recreation. Nunes said the complex, which will be at Gosling Road and Marsco Place and will feature five athletic competition fields, could open in August 2015. Other projects include two new tennis courts at Cranebrook Park, the new Pondera Park in Creekside Park and early renovation plans for Northshore Park, which Nunes said is scheduled for 2016. For the first time, the township has set aside $1 million for enhanced maintenance in places such as along major thoroughfares and in cul-de-sacs. “Some residents believe major thoroughfares could benefit from clearing underbrush, and really just all types of maintenance,” Sharp said.