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'Time for a serious upgrade' | Harris County to put $1.2 billion bond referendum on November ballot

County leaders said the average homeowner would pay $32 a year if the bond is approved, but there would be no impact on the tax rate.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Residents in Harris County will get to vote on a $1.2 billion bond referendum this November. If approved by voters, the money would go towards roads, parks and police.

"Now is the time to let them decide," Pct. 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.

Ellis was one of three who voted for moving forward with putting the bond referendum on the November ballot.

"There's tremendous needs in terms of infrastructure and public safety," Ellis said. "It's time for a serious upgrade."

The $1.2 billion bond package, if approved by voters, breaks down like this:

  • $100 million to public safety facilities and technology
    $900 million to roads, drainage and transportation projects
    $200 million to parks

That includes repairing roughly 300 miles of county roads, creating or improving nearly 80 parks and reducing the flooding potential for about 13,000 residents through drainage projects.

Exactly where the money would go still isn't clear. It's why Pct. 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey voted against it.

"I voted against it. I think it's rushed. I don't think it's specific enough," Ramsey said. "It's a generic blank check to do bonds."

Ramsey said he'd support a bond referendum in 2023, but Pct. 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said the time is now. In a statement he told KHOU 11 News:

“This is a fiscally sound plan. This bond is a critical ‘meat and potatoes’ measure that will allow the county to keep up with the tremendous growth in our area. It will not increase the tax rate and will help us with infrastructure projects before inflation potentially overwhelms us. The bond package also includes critical funding for public safety, including critical improvements to dilapidated Sheriff’s Office facilities to protect the health and safety of our deputies, and $200 million for partnership projects with the cities and towns across the county. These partnership projects have proven to be job creators and boost our cities’ and towns’ economies. If no package is approved, it would stop all the significant improvements made over the last four years.”

"We will not have to raise the tax rate," County Administrator David Berry said.

Berry said the average homeowner would pay $32 a year for the bond, but he points out that it's not an increase.

"There is a cost but the overall tax bill shouldn't go up," Berry said. "If folks do pay more, it's because their property value goes up, but that's always been the case."

County leaders will need to take one more vote before Aug. 22 to finalize the referendum on the ballot. They hope to have more specifics on where the money will go by the time voters head to the polls.

"The people of Harris County will make a decision if they want to invest in the future of one of the fastest growing counties in the country," Ellis said.

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