Open Letter to City Council: Debt

Dear Mayor and Members of City Council,

As you work towards the 2019 City budget and the possibility of another $45 or 50 million dollar bond issue I’d like to suggest the following.  First, check out the Comptroller’s information on debt at all levels in the state, particularly for Bellaire and similar sized cities in the state.

Compare our per capita debt in 2016 ($5600) with that of surrounding cities in our area, and with comparable upper income cities in the state. Highland Park – 0; Southlake $4408; West University – $3938; University Park – 0.  And our debt has increased since 2016.

Question – why do we need to issue more debt?  I believe part of the problem was with past City Councils that continually reduced ad valorem taxes rather than build capital reserve funds for future needs.

The other problem is the free spending on unnecessary expenditures – consultants, studies, public art, banners along Bellaire Blvd that NO ONE notices, huge events and costly celebrations, and catering to the demands of a few citizens at the expense of the rest – Holly Street trail (a great trail, but where’s the quarter of a million spent so far?), sidewalks (yes, maybe in some areas, but not while we’re planning flood mitigation).

Meanwhile the expertise and freely volunteered time and effort of our Boards and Commissions seem to be unappreciated and ignored.

Where do things stand on the costs for the new municipal facilities?  Has a report been issued recently?  (And who specified that brick instead of going with continuity and class by using the same brick as the Fire Department building?) Evelyn’s Park ($5 million and counting), new water meters ($4.5 million plus the ongoing costs to monitor them, the interest on the debt, and the costs for the City crews who repair the leaks), $300K beautification budgets – please, find someone who understands xeriscape and native plants.

Has the $8 million dollar wastewater project been completed?  Have the installations and upgrades been inspected and verified by a third party independent inspection company?

Recall the economic crisis in 2008, and the cutbacks that were required at City Hall for several years.  Fortunately we owed a lot less back then.  The good times never last.  Finally, do not discount the hit to property tax assessments in Bellaire for the next few years.

Depending on where you live, if you search HCAD for your street you may find that many of the properties have not increased or increased much in assessed value from 2017 to 2018.  In areas that flooded you will find a decrease in assessed value by as much as $100K or more.  I found that most house assessments on Cynthia went down by about $30K to $40K.  Don’t take my word for it, check on HCAD.  Bellaire was almost notorious during the Harvey floods.  We had friends in California calling because Bellaire was on the news in L A.

Cut the budget to bare bones, no fluff, just good public services.  Raise taxes by more than you’ve planned and explain that by doing so you are providing savings to residents over the next few years, or consider cutting the homestead exemption to 15% for the next 5 years.

Postpone all projects but those deemed high priority for safety or flood control.  Again, no fluff, just lower the streets and fix the drainage.  It’s past time to get our City’s finances under control.

Thank you,

Email your thoughts to the Mayor and City Council via our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at  Ask Ms. Dutton to forward your email to Council.

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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