Houston Mayor, Council Spar Over Harvey Tax

Houston's mayor lashed out Wednesday at critics of his property tax proposal as debris from hurricane Harvey continues to pile up in neighborhoods.

While some council members questioned whether the city was getting its monies worth from some trash contractors, others sought information about minority contracting.

“If you're after something else in terms of subcontractors say it,” Mayor Sylvester Turner scolded Councilman Larry Green.

“Is your charge directed at me?  I just want information,” Green responded.

With FEMA chipping in 90 percent for cleanup costs, so Mayor Turner has cut his 8.9 percent tax hike in half.  But he is still holding out hope Gov. Gregg Abbott decides to tap the state's Rainy Day fund to help.

Councilman Michael Kubosh accused the mayor of playing politics.

“It's no longer the city council's fault or the mayor's fault, it's the state's fault that we're having the raise taxes because they're not helping us with the Rainy Day fund,” he says.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt calls the tax hike a huge mistake, adding that homeowners also face a value increase as well.

“What the mayor was really proposing was going to be a 15 percent hike, now by cutting it back it's a 10 percent increase,” he says.

Kubosh is calling on council to order a reappraisal of flood damaged properties to help lower costs for Harvey victims.

“These people, their homes have been appraised and now they've been destroyed by a flood and they have a higher appraisal, so we should do the right thing and give them a reappraisal.”

Bettencourt insists the city has other funds available to cover the cleanup costs. 

 “There are tax increment reinvestment zones which haven't been tapped,” he says.  “Those are effectively diversions of the top of the general fund and have somehwere in excess of $4 million in cash in their bank accounts.”

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