An election to increase the city sales tax in Friendswood may occur next Spring.
August is the deadline for putting the matter before voters in November, but after much discussion, council in July appeared to prefer a May election, when more money could be allocated for the city’s aging streets.
Friendswood’s sales tax is a half cent below the maximum allowed. Most Texas cities, according to the State Comptroller’s Office, are taxing at the maximum rate of 2 percent, or 8.25 percent when combined with the state sales tax rate. Friendswood taxes at a rate of 1.5 percent.
The additional income would generate a quarter-cent for street maintenance, an eighth cent toward a municipal development district and another eighth cent for fire control, prevention and emergency medical services.
City council members, however, have issues with both the timing of the election and one of the components of the plan.
“I’m perfectly content with a quarter-cent for roads,” Councilman John Scott said. “I think that’s a good use of funds, and allows people who don’t live here and use our roadways to help pay for them.”
He did not agree on the eighth cent going to the municipal development district to be used for economic development.
“For years, we’ve heard that having a low sales tax rate was one of the driving forces for economic development,” he said. “Now that we want to raise the rate, economic development wants to receive part of that rate. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Councilman Jim Hill said he preferred to hold off on the election until May, when the city could take advantage of recent changes in state law that would allow for a half-cent to be used for street maintenance – instead of a quarter-cent.
“I do not want to see this city’s streets get into the same shape as the City of Houston streets,” he said. “They will never be able to catch up. If we use that whole half a cent, we’ve got a chance of keeping right on top of our streets. With the price of things going up, I don’t know if that will be enough, but it will certainly make a difference in our older subdivisions.”
Councilman Steve Rockey said he is concerned with the timing of this possible election.
“I understand all we are doing,” he said, “but I think we are asking a lot of people to vote for this in November. We couldn’t have picked a worse time.”
At present, a half-cent of city sales tax generates an estimated $1.4 million for property tax relief.
The council usually meets on the first Monday of each month at City Hall, 910 S. Friendswood Dr. Full agendas are posted on the city’s website, www.friendswood.tx.us.