Houston City Council Passes FY 2016-2020 Capital Improvement Plan
Yesterday afternoon, City Council approved the $9,401,184,000 FY2016 - FY2020 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) with Council Member Dave Martin, Council Member C.O. Bradford and Council Member Michael Kubosh voting "no". The plan proposed to city council allocated a mere 3% of funds for District E projects out of the total budget, while other districts received as much as 21%. Council Member Martin expressed the overwhelming inequity of the plan and apparent lack of projects in District E. In an effort to raise awareness of the inequity and to increase funding and the amount of projects within the council district, Council Member Martin presented several amendments that would have allocated a portion of the monies evenly over the 11 council districts. Unfortunately, these were defeated when voted on, but not without a lengthy discussion and agreement that a policy change needs to be addressed on how the CIP dollars are allocated in future years.
Additionally, while reviewing the Capital Improvement Plan prior to the meeting, Council Member Martin took a close look at the funding sources for each CIP project and noticed that over the years the funding for the expansion of Kingwood Drive, one of District E's most noticeable projects according to "worst-first" need, had changed from a City funded source in the Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund (DDSRF), to being funded by the Texas Department of Transportation. Through further research of TxDOT projects Council Member Martin discovered that the Kingwood Drive expansion project was not on TxDOT's most recent project list.
"This is not right. Why are we looking to the State to fund City projects when our taxpayers were told that their taxes were going to fund this project (Kingwood Drive)," Council Member Martin asked. He continued on saying, "Where did that money go? We collect a Drainage Fee/Tax from our taxpayers, and we move those funds to a Dedicated Drainage and Street Repair Fund (DDSRF). We identified this street, using the City's "worst-first" criteria, as the second worst street in the City of Houston based upon congestion and condition. As a result $18 million was allocated in Rebuild Houston dedicated funds, only for us to find out that those funds were moved out of this project and replaced by TxDOT funds that are not in TxDOT's five year plan. I want our taxpayer dollars back".
After sparking great discussion with his colleagues Council Member Martin gathered the support of his fellow council members and the amendment passed with a 14-1 vote. With the passage of the amendment the administration agreed that the $11 million of proposed TxDOT funding for Kingwood Drive would be reallocated to its original funding source within the City of Houston Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal Fund.
The administration also agreed to continue to work to find funding for other potential projects within District E including a Clear Lake community center and reconstruction of Space Center Boulevard and Allen Genoa.
To watch a recap of the City Council CIP meeting, please visit http://houstontx.city.swagit.com.