As many residents may already know, the Board of Directors (the "Board") of Emerald Forest Utility District (the "District") has called for an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) tax proposition to be on the election ballot for Saturday, May 6, 2023. To ensure that residents and other constituents of the District have accurate information regarding the proposed authorization and the Board’s goals for the District, we have put together answers for common questions. This page will be updated to address additional questions and provide additional information prior to the election.
What is the District?
The District is responsible for providing water, sanitary sewer, and drainage infrastructure and services to approximately 1,878 homes within the 809.2436 acres of land within the District. The District is located approximately 18 miles northwest of the City of Houston’s central business district and lies along FM 1960 Road West generally between Jones Road and Mills Road. The District is bounded on the north by Mills Road, south by Windfern Road, east by N. Gessner Road, and west by Jones Road.
The District currently operates and maintains two (2) water plants with onsite water wells, one (1) wastewater treatment plant, four (4) sanitary sewer lift stations, and one (1) sanitary sewer lift station currently in construction. This infrastructure is connected by 18 miles of water lines and 21.6 miles of sanitary sewer lines.
How are my taxes determined?
The District levies a total tax rate each year that has two components:
- The debt service tax rate, the proceeds of which can only be used to make payments on the District’s outstanding bonds; and
- The operations and maintenance tax rate (often referred to as O&M), the proceeds of which are deposited to the District’s General Fund and used, together with water and sewer revenue, to pay operating and maintenance expenses of the District.
These two components of the tax rate have changed over the years as the District’s debt service and operating expenses have changed. The 2022 tax rate was comprised of a $0.25 per $100 of assessed valuation O&M tax rate and a $0.365 per $100 of assessed valuation debt service tax rate, for a total tax rate of $0.615.
What is the election?
The language below will be on the ballot for residents of the District when they go to the polls or vote by mail for the District’s May 6, 2023 election, asking voters to select one (1) option of either FOR or AGAINST:
PROPOSITION A – AN OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE TAX FOR FACILITIES AUTHORIZED BY ARTICLE XVI, SECTION 59, OF THE TEXAS CONSTITUTION, NOT TO EXCEED FIFTY CENTS ($0.50) PER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS ($100) VALUATION OF TAXABLE PROPERTY
The District is currently capped in regard to the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) tax rate they can levy at $0.25 per $100 of assessed valuation, which was approved by the District’s voters at an election held on April 6, 1985. The District is seeking an increase in the O&M tax rate cap to have the ability, if needed, at a later date, to raise the O&M tax rate to cover ongoing and increasing operations and maintenance costs as the District retires debt and lowers the debt service tax rate. The new $0.50 maximum tax rate, if approved by the voters, would replace the existing $0.25 maximum approved tax rate.
It is important to note the above proposition, if so approved by voters, is not expected to increase the existing total property tax rate. This proposition is asking the voters whether the District should raise the O&M cap so the District can, if needed in the future, adjust the O&M tax rate up or down, along with the debt service tax rate, to help manage District operational costs.
How does the District manage taxpayer dollars?
The Board lowered the total tax rate in 2021 and 2022, as increased property values allowed the Board the flexibility to do so. Further, in 2023, the District has adopted a general homestead exemption for qualifying residents of the District of 10%, in addition to maintaining the homestead exemption of $25,000 for qualifying residents who are over-65 or disabled.
In the last two years, the District lowered the overall tax rate as property values increased, to keep resident payments as even as possible from previous years. For more details regarding tax rates, click here. Through careful supervision of expenses and planning for maintenance, the District currently maintains an operating reserve of approximately 32 months in its general fund. A common benchmark for municipal utility districts is generally 12 months. Reserve funds earn interest and are available for emergencies, and can help reduce the costs of financing projects requiring large-scale rehabilitation, repair, or replacement, as in the case of plant facility failure or compromise.
At this time, with all the information on hand, the Board of Directors for the District does not anticipate a total tax rate increase as a result of this election in the foreseeable future.
I have more questions…
Good! The goal is for the residents to have all the information at their disposal as Election Day approaches. Additional questions can be fielded through the Contact Us form on the District’s website.
Further, the District will host a Resident Awareness and Educational Open House to discuss the upcoming May 6, 2023 operations and maintenance tax election.
The Open House will feature exhibits showing how O&M tax rates are used by Districts, and the effect of raising the O&M tax rate cap if so approved by the voters.
This event is free to attend and open to the public. Residents can arrive at any time during the event window and speak with District consultants regarding the information being presented. There will be refreshments and light snacks. We look forward to seeing you!
Tuesday, April 18, 2023, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Cypress Creek Fire Department Station No. 24
12073 Perry Road
Houston, Texas 77070