Coalition for a Greater Houston Rejects Mayors’ Exemption Proposal

As Mayor Annise Parker prepares to meet in a special called meeting with members of  city council Monday afternoon to explain her proposed changes to Proposition 1, Rebuild Houston, a coalition of church, school, business and community leaders is rejecting the compromise plan.

The group says it will not support Mayor Annise Parker’s proposal on church and school exemptions.

“Unfortunately the mayor still has not responded to the fundamental concerns of the community by this very limited exemption plan.” They plan to express these concerns at today’s Drainage and Flooding Committee meeting in “full force,” stated coalition spokesman Paul Bettencourt.

(news release)

Bettencourt explained that the basis for her exemptions is the revelation that the proposed initial fee raised more revenues than the minimum $125 million and the exemptions were still in fact paid for by the rest of the taxpayers. “We have said from the first day that churches, schools and charities should be exempted from this de facto property tax, however it must be done so the amount of the exemption is not placed on the backs of the homeowners and businesses,” Bettencourt said. “Her exemptions are based on overcharging the rest of the taxpayers rather than doing it right.”

Pastor Steve Riggle, speaking on behalf of the churches in the coalition asserted that there are two other “fatal flaws” in the mayor’s proposal. “Her proposed exemptions are not granted to churches and schools built after this ordinance takes effect, which is patently unacceptable,” Riggle asserted.  “In addition, she should simply support and wait on passage of SB 714 and HB 1022 in the legislature so private schools, hospitals and charities such as Salvation Army can be exempted as they are from existing property taxes.”

Both Bettencourt and Riggle affirmed the coalition’s complete opposition to any implementation of an ordinance at this time. “There is an election challenge lawsuit in the courts over the deceptively vague ballot language and the city council should not act until it is decided.” Bettencourt stated. “In addition we would expect Councilman Costello to abide by Article 7, Section 4 of the City of Houston Charter and avoid the obvious conflict of interest provisions by not voting on the proposed drainage fee ordinance,” he concluded.

Riggle concurred and said that Mayor Parker and the city council should act to restore the trust lost in city government by “putting on the brakes.” “If the mayor and city council truly want to govern with integrity it is time to just stop this ill conceived scheme by not implementing the ordinance until this dark cloud of moral, ethical and legal questions are resolved.”

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