City scrutinizes BAHEP, Oks budget

In News by Reporter News

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell appeared before Friendswood City Council Monday, urging the city to continue support of the organization.

Mitchell mentioned ongoing legislative efforts in Austin to build support for transportation funding, storm surge protection as well as improving school funding in districts including Friendswood and Clear Creek ISDs.

BAHEP officials were responding to a recent news article stating Friendswood may withdraw the $14,000 per year partnership with the regional economic development organization. The city joined in 1998.

Councilman Carl Gustafson was among those questioning the returns the city gets on its investment, and Councilman Sam Hill initially moved to reallocate the funding to the recently organized downtown Friendswood Association. That motion was amended on advice of the city attorney.

Councilman John Scott said the city spends far more money elsewhere than the $14,000, and it is important to have representation on the regional level. This is particularly important, he said, since the community is split by two counties.

“I won’t support killing the agreement,” Scott said. “I’ll stand against it. It was a good partnership when we entered into it, and I think it’s still a good partnership.”

Councilman Pat McGinnis agreed, adding, “It is very short-sided to divorce ourselves form BAHEP. They are not our Chamber of Commerce; they are a regional organization.”

“I think it is foolish of us, as Councilman Scott said, for relative pennies, to leave this fine economic partnership,” he said.

A motion to terminate the city’s agreement with and support of BAHEP, was tabled Monday for further discussion. The matter will likely be brought back before council in a month.

“It may be a difference of perception on the roles as opposed to the actions,” Councilman Steve Rockey said. “I think what we should do is continue with BAHEP and make it clear we have different expectations of what you bring us.”

Council on Monday gave final approval for the city budget and tax rate.

Although residents will pay less in taxes than the current year, the rate is technically a tax increase, since it is higher than the effective rate.

Two public hearings were held last week on the tax rate of .56 cents per $100 of valuation. Public hearings were required because the city opted to go 2 cents over the effective tax rate. The 2014-15 rate is 59 cents per $100 valuation. Councilman Scott argued against going over the effective rate, while others maintained the extra revenue is needed by the city.

In Galveston County, city taxes make up about 22 percent of the total annual residential tax bill, with Friendswood ISD making up just over half.

City Council meets at City Hall, 910 S. Friendswood. Agendas are posted 72 hours in advance on the city’s website, www.friendswood.tx.us.

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