Mayor warns Missouri City of tax increase
By S. Barot
For the Fort Bend Star
Missouri City officials and staff hosted a public symposium on March 27 to discuss projects for next year and to have citizens provide input to the City’s comprehensive plan and budget.
Among the speakers were Mayor Allen Owen and Jon Hockenyos, president of Austin-based economic analysis and public policy consulting firm TXP. Hockenyos provided a presentation highlighting national and Greater Houston area economies as well as their impact on Missouri City and surrounding areas.
Overall, Hockenyos said the U.S. economy continues to grow but at a slow to moderate pace. He predicted the first quarter of 2017 would continue to be consistent with slow growth.
Locally, the Houston area lost over 80,000 jobs during the energy downturn, but created 18,700 jobs in various sectors of the economy last year – compared to Austin and San Antonio, which created over 30,000 jobs each in 2016.
Hockenyos predicted oil prices would continue to stay at $50 per barrel. He said the local economy will see a substantial rise in energy-related jobs should the price of oil increase to $60 per barrel, but doesn’t expect that to occur for another 18 months to two years.
Not all the news was bleak. As per Missouri City workforce profiles, prominent concentrations are in downtown and the Texas Medical Center. Workers in professional services and healthcare makes up a sizeable part of the City’s population.
“Missouri City is fairly a white collar town in term of the workforce profile,” Hockenyos said. “It’s good that there’s a little bit of an insulation from the effects of the energy downturn but Missouri City certainly is not immune to it.”
He also added that nationally, employment has stayed “pretty flat” over the last 18 months, and locally, unemployment in Missouri City has increased – from 4.5 percent in 2015 to 5.2 percent in 2016.
Hockenyos’ ended saying there continues to be a population growth in Texas. And as that happens, consumer-related areas such as retail and restaurants, among other things will continue to do well.
“Overall, Missouri City is buffered to some degree,” Hockenyos said.
City taxes, however, are a different story.
Addressing the crowd, Mayor Allen Owen noted, “The economy is not where it needs to be.”
He continued by saying that property and sales tax are Missouri City’s chief sources of revenue and 63 percent of the city’s revenue originates from property tax.
Owen spoke about the state legislature placing a revenue cap on cities at 4 percent. At present, it stands at 8 percent.
“Had we seen a 4 percent revenue cap in Missouri City this year, we would have lost $2.9 million,” Owen said. “Can you imagine how many streets and sidewalks I could repair with that money?”
Owen discussed replacing entire streets due to wear and tear, though city council recently allocated $2 million for city sidewalk repairs. Owen said he needs $90 million for repairs around the city.
The pending revenue cap is a threat not only to infrastructure but also to public safety – which encompasses 55 percent of Missouri City’s budget.
Owen alluded to hiring additional law enforcement and purchasing two fire trucks, which “the city needs desperately today.”
“None of us on Council like to raise taxes,” Owen said. “But we have a plan in place and we have a budget and we’re going to tighten up whatever belt we need to tighten up. But I will tell you right now, at some point in time in the near future we are going to come to the citizens of Missouri City and ask for a tax increase.”