Highlights of things to come
By Elsa Maxey
Fort Bend County’s city mayors and Judge Bob Hebert uncork the new year and are looking forward to some impressive undertakings for 2012, crafted with 2011 accomplishments that laid the groundwork. Judge Hebert is scheduled to speak next month on February 10 at the Safari Texas Ranch in a State of the County address – Fort Bend County in 2012 presented by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and the Central Fort Bend Chamber Alliance.
Fort Bend County, said Judge Hebert, “anticipates initiating a $5.6 Million restoration of the Old County Courthouse with the help of a grant from the State of Texas and will close the financing of the Grand Parkway Overpass project in early 2012.” He said that one of Fort Bend County’s most significant accomplishments in 2011 was “achieving a balanced budget with increased service levels to meet our growing population without an increase in the overall county tax rate, in the midst of this recession.”
It is important to note that the common theme for the government entities for 2012 is the promotion of economic development and a continued emphasis on fiscal responsibility.
“The two major accomplishments anticipated for 2012 should be the ‘First Pitch’ on April 26 at Constellation Field and the visible development of the Imperial Sugar refinery site,” said Mayor James Thompson. Along with that is the beginning of a new partnership with ACE Entertainment, he said, “patterned after our business relationship with Opening Day Partners, to partner in the development of an indoor concert venue.” Looking back on 2011, Mayor Thompson said he considers a significant accomplishment to be the strong financial health of Sugar Land due to an upgraded rating of AAA, and secondly, Sugar Land’s strong business climate along with the city being named statistically the “safest city in Texas.” Sugar Land also recently refinanced $9.4 million in bond issues, reported as $91,000 annual savings to taxpayers for the next nine years.
At the close of the year, the city reported a 2011 median household income of $100,632, 12th in a U.S. Census survey of cities with populations greater than 65,000 noting Sugar Land’s five-year average of $101,611 ranked 15th in the nation. The five-year survey also said Sugar Land residents’ educational attainment of 57 percent is for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher for those between the ages of 25 and 64.
Recent projects in the city resulted in more than $10 million in new capital investment, 140 new jobs for the city and more than 110,000 square feet of newly constructed or newly leased space adding to the city’s profile of regional and international corporations that are housed in more than 22 million square feet of commercial space.
In the only city in Texas with no city property tax since the mid-90’s, Mayor Leonard Scarcella, who has led Stafford since 1969, said two major pursuits of the city in 2012 will be the “strong promotion of economic development, especially quality retail,” and also, “a continued emphasis on fiscal responsibility to ensure maintaining a high level of services.”
A major accomplishment in 2011 for the nationally acclaimed city for its unique achievements and prudent fiscal management, Mayor Scarcella cited an infrastructure project. The project is the “completion with TxDOT of Stafford/ Staffordshire Roads directly connecting Fifth Street to Beltway 8.” Stafford, referred to as one of the most fiscally sound and financially disciplined cities in Texas, continues to challenge communities across the nation to show a record of what it has accomplished–no property tax and a determination at eliminating city debt. Missouri City
In 2012, Mayor Allen Owen said the city intends to finish and move into a new Community Center and Tennis/Recreation Center “so our citizens can start enjoying what they asked for in the bond election.” The city will continue to look at infrastructure projects—sidewalks, street replacement, and the opening of a surface water plant.
2011’s major accomplishment in the city is the commercial growth in two Industrial Parks accounting for over $500,000,000 in facilities that will generate over 1,200 new jobs to the area, said Mayor Owen. He added that the beginning of 2012 will see further growth in the two commercial areas, which the city is hopeful will bring new retail, shopping and jobs to the Texas Parkway and Cartwright corridor entrances into the city.
“We passed a budget for 2012 without a tax increase and this will be our biggest challenge,” said Mayor Owen indicating that the city intends to continue serving citizens with the same level of service as in the past and in light of the struggling economy, “we all have to live within our budgets. Easier said than done many times.”
The city’s year in review shows it is one of the safest communities with a 5th ranking in Texas and an award from the Texas State Comptroller’s Office acknowledges the city’s transparency in financial, audit and budget reporting to residents.
Elected in 2011, Mayor Vincent Morales said he feels the most important accomplishment in 2011 for the city was its ability “to maintain a balanced budget despite the overall downturn in our Nation’s economy.” For 2012, Mayor Morales said he looks forward to the city helping encourage continued revitalization and development throughout our community, especially in the historic downtown area and along major corridors. This will be accomplished by “aggressively planning for Rosenberg’s future by laying the groundwork for continued growth through infrastructure development and improved service delivery to our citizens and businesses.”
For 2012 in the city that holds the county seat, Mayor Hilmar Moore, elected in 1949 and most likely the longest serving elected official in the U.S., intends to capture additional retail opportunities and provide a high level of services to citizens. Along with mobility improvements around new Fort Bend County Complex, in 2011, Mayor Moore states the city ended the year with a balanced budget and no employee reductions. The city reports it also changed its garbage service to a poly cart system, hired a retail coach, rolled out a new city website, and hired its new fire chief and finance director, also taking the lead in a surface water project.