Rumor versus Fact
Keep up to date on the latest information that aims to dispel inaccurate information about recent city initiatives and community concerns.
Rumor: The Greatwood/New Territory annexation will have a cost impact on the City of Sugar Land.
Posted on November 15, 2017 | link
Fact: The annexation is revenue neutral to the City.
The City’s recently adopted budget fully funds City services. City residents are currently receiving all City services at the same level as last year. After the annexation becomes effective on December 12, 2017, Greatwood and New Territory residents will receive the same City service levels as current residents.
Additional staff, vehicles, equipment and contracted services necessary to provide full municipal services to the newly annexed areas are paid for by the annexed residents through utility rates, property taxes and previously paid surcharges for City fire and ground water reduction services.
Rumor: The Sugar Land 4B Corporation spends sales tax money without its budget or expenditures having to be approved by the City Council in a public meeting.
Posted on November 13, 2017 | link
Fact: This is not correct. State law requires City Council to approve the Sugar Land 4B Corporation’s (SL4B) budget. This occurred during a public meeting on Sept. 19 after a public budget workshop on Aug. 31. Additionally, all SL4B meetings are publicly posted per the Texas Open Meetings Act. The Sugar Land 4B Corporation utilizes a restricted portion of sales tax approved by voters in 1995 to support economic development.
Since its creation, the SL4B has supported projects such as the University of Houston Sugar Land, Sugar Land Town Square, the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and Constellation Field. For more information on the SL4B, click here.
Rumor: The city of Sugar Land is wasting tax dollars on unnecessary programs like WaterWise when the money could be better spent balancing the budget.
Posted on October 25, 2017 | link
Fact: The “Learning to be WaterWise™” program is not supported by tax dollars. It is a program funded by the surface water fund created to manage programs and projects essential for compliance with Fort Bend Subsidence District’s (FBSD) groundwater reduction mandate. Funds designated for WaterWise cannot be used to balance the city’s general operating budget. Since 2007, the city has invested $633,085 in the WaterWise program, generating more than 1.5 trillion gallons in FBSD groundwater credits and educating school children about the importance of water conservation. Generating credits and water education are two water management strategies that support the city’s compliance with FBSD regulatory mandates and our ability to meet the increasing water demands of our community during times of drought. The cost to generate 1,000 gallons in groundwater credits through the WaterWise program is 42 cents per 1,000 gallons; when compared to the cost for failing to meet FBSD alternative water requirements ($6.50 per 1,000 gallons), the WaterWise program is a vital component to long-term water resource management in Sugar Land. For more information on the Sugar Land’s Groundwater Reduction Plan and “Learning to be WaterWise™” visit, www.sugarlandtx.gov/331/Groundwater-Reduction-Program. For information on the Fort Bend Subsidence District visit, http://fortbendsubsidence.org.
Rumor: Sugar Land recently approved a multi-year contract with a vendor to prevent others from bidding and to the detriment of taxpayers.
Posted on October 21, 2017 | link
Fact: This is not correct. Any contract – including multi-year contracts – must follow the competitive bidding and proposal processes specified by state law. Contracts are structured to ensure quality and value for taxpayers. Multi-year contracts are typically structured for one year with an option to renew for additional years. This allows city staff to ensure quality work is performed and make adjustments if necessary, including the option to seek new vendors. Structuring the contracts with the flexibility for multiple years through open, competitive processes creates stability and resiliency by stabilizing pricing – while also ensuring taxpayers are receiving services at the most competitive prices and value.
Rumor: The city manager's proposed budget includes a tax increase that only covers pay raises for city staff.
Posted on September 11, 2017 | link
Fact: Not true. While the proposed budget does include a pool for limited performance-based merit increases for City staff - which are important to ensure that we are able to retain our highest performing staff members, it also funds increased costs for current services provided by the City. Further, due to a sales tax decline, property tax revenues will now have to fund services previously funded by sales tax. For example, rehabilitation funding has been moved from capital projects to the general fund, meaning property tax revenue will now be funding $1.4 million in expenses previously funded at higher levels by sales tax in prior years.
Rumor: Because state sales tax revenue for the three months ending in August 2017 is up 5.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago, the City of Sugar Land is misleading residents when talking about falling sales tax revenues.
Posted on September 8, 2017 | link
Fact: While the state and other cities have seen increases in sales tax, Sugar Land is down compared to last year. According to the Comptroller’s website, through September, the City was down 8.04% calendar year to date, and the September allocation is down 3.19% from last year. For fiscal year 2017, the City collected 7.42% less in sales tax revenue than the prior year, a decrease of $3.87 million. For this reason, the City has budgeted no growth in sales tax revenue for the fiscal year 2018 budget based on fiscal year 2017 actual revenue. For an independent assessment of sales tax collections, visit the Texas Comptroller’s Transparency website at https://comptroller.texas.gov/transparency/local/allocations/sales-tax/top20.php.
Rumor: Postponing public hearings and a subsequent vote on a tax rate would show courtesy and kindness to the people still suffering from Hurricane Harvey.
Posted on September 7, 2017 | link
Fact: Unfortunately, this is not possible. While we understand that recovery and volunteer efforts are still ongoing, state law requires the city adhere to strict timelines in the truth in taxation process. This process includes dates for public hearings and a final vote on the tax rate, and the schedule was set long before Hurricane Harvey formed. The final vote on the tax rate will not occur until Sept. 19, and we welcome input through other means than the public hearings – such as directly contacting your councilmembers or emailing the Budget Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rumor: The city is spending $10 million on a bridge over Oyster Creek.
Posted on August 24, 2017 | link
Fact: A bridge over Oyster Creek is included in the University Boulevard/South Stadium Drive project, a collaborative project involving Fort Bend County, the Imperial Redevelopment District and the city of Sugar Land. Phase II of the project includes an approximate $10.65 million extension and bridge over a railroad spur and Oyster Creek. The City’s portion of the entire project – which, including both phases, is approximately $21 million – is only estimated to be $3.8 million, with the remainder of funding coming from the Imperial Redevelopment District and Fort Bend County. When complete, University Boulevard and South Stadium Drive will accomplish the long-planned “Burney Road Bypass” project, an important north-south corridor that provides for the mobility of residents north of U.S. 90A while alleviating traffic in residential areas along Main Street and Burney Road.
Rumor: The city is opposed to the state’s attempt to create property tax relief for local residents.
Posted on August 18, 2017 | link
Fact: Proposals considered in the Texas Legislature would not have provided property tax relief. Revenue caps that were considered in the Texas Legislature would not provide meaningful tax relief, but would have restricted the City’s ability to meet local needs such as public safety funding (which accounts for nearly 50 percent of the city’s general fund), and divert attention from the real cause of higher property taxes -- the state's failure to adequately fund public education. In Sugar Land, school district taxes can account for up to 65 percent of the tax bill while city taxes account for only about 15 percent. In fact, in 2016, had the City relied on the legislature to provide “tax relief” through a 4 percent revenue cap rather than the City Council approved 2 percent increase to the homestead exemption, Sugar Land residents would have ended up paying $12 MORE on their tax bill – even more if the revenue cap was increased to 6 percent. Read more at http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/FAQ.aspx?TID=73.
Rumor: The city spent $760,000 on a crosswalk.
Posted on August 17, 2017 | link
Fact: The total cost for construction of the pedestrian crossing in Sugar Land Town Square was approximately $385,000 – plus an additional $43,000 in landscaping to discourage pedestrians from unsafely crossing the road. The crosswalk addressed safety concerns related to an area with high pedestrian/vehicle conflicts due to the commercial areas on both sides of Town Center Boulevard and a growing desire for walkability. The goal is to provide safe crossings for all pedestrians so not to have pedestrian/vehicle accidents similar to the one that occurred in 2016. The crossing was part of a larger Town Center Pedestrian-Bike Project that included expansion and widening of sidewalks. Learn at www.SugarLandTX.gov/Crosswalk.
Rumor: The city spent public money to improve a golf course.
Posted on August 17, 2017 | link
Fact: The city did not construct golf course improvements. Drainage improvements were targeted in the Sugar Creek subdivision to solve a decades-old problem to prevent street flooding during moderate rain storms. The work was identified as part of a comprehensive drainage study of the Sugar Creek Watershed completed in 2005. The decision to partner with the River Bend and Sugar Creek golf course for drainage improvements saved taxpayers millions of dollars and directly improves the quality of life and safety of residents. Updates on the project and presentation slides from a homeowner association meeting can be found at www.SugarLandTX.gov/SugarCreekDrainageProject.
Rumor: Tax increase/service cuts avoidable if taxes not used on nonessentials like TSTC & public art.
Posted on August 17, 2017 | link
Fact: The Texas State Technical College and public art projects are funded with a restricted portion of sales and hotel occupancy taxes that may only be used for economic development and tourism purposes. Per State law, the funding used for these projects cannot be utilized for general fund services funded by property tax.
Rumor: Voters approved two of three projects in 2013;City says voters ok'd tax increase for three.
Posted on August 16, 2017 | link
Fact: This is not true. The three projects included in the 2013 bond election would have required a 5 cent increase on the tax rate. Voters approved bonds totaling $31.5 million and authorized only 3.1 cents of the proposed 5 cent tax increase to fund two of the three parks projects. To date, the city has only increased the tax rate .7 cents. The remaining voter-authorized tax increase has not yet been implemented.
Rumor: Short-term rentals are prohibited because they do not generate HOT taxes like a hotel would.
Posted on June 21, 2017 | link
Fact: There is a misconception that Sugar Land prohibits STRs for the purpose of collecting more revenue when in fact, any owner that is operating a lodging business – including a short term rental – anywhere in the state of Texas is required to collect state hotel occupancy taxes that must be submitted to the State Comptroller. Additionally, if STRs were allowed in Sugar Land (they are not), they would also be subject to the city’s hotel occupancy tax. The purpose of the city’s regulations is to preserve neighborhood integrity. Authorizing this type of commercial operation to exist within residential districts disrupts the nature of that residential district. Several of the concerns expressed by Sugar Land residents living near a short term rental (STR) have been:
- Increased traffic associated with the STR
- Nuisance complaints regarding parties/noise, trash and parking issues
- Concerns regarding strangers coming in and out of the neighborhoods on a frequent basis
Rumor: Sugar Land allows short-term rentals to operate within the city limits.
Posted on June 21, 2017 | link
Fact: While short-term rentals (STRs) have become quite popular across the country, the use of a residential property as an STR advertised via websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, etc. violates the city of Sugar Land zoning regulations. STRs are classified under SIC Code #7021 Rooming and Boarding and are prohibited within residential zoning districts. The information can be found in the Sugar Land Development Code Land Use Sec. 2-71 at http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/documentcenter/view/9544.
Rumor: The Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land has building violations
Posted on June 5, 2017 | link
Fact: The Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land was designed and constructed in accordance with all appropriate codes and the proper inspection procedures were followed as outlined by the city and state. Additionally, the building also went through a Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation inspection, which – as is common in large scale building construction projects – did identify 33 violations, all of which were related to accessibility and did not impact life-safety measures. Though the city has up to one year to rectify the violations in accordance with state code, these were remedied by March 31, 2017, and the building currently has no violations. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation holds the Smart Financial Centre’s inspection status as approved.
Rumor: The city of Sugar Land can control the railroads and rights of ways at the crossings
Posted on June 5, 2017 | link
Fact: UPRR owns the rights to the railroad and all of the rights of way at the crossings. The city cannot have any work performed within 25 feet of the rail track without proper permits from UPRR. However, the city works with UPRR to address the concerns of Sugar Land residents during their projects.
Rumor: The city knows when the railroad crossing arms are down or malfunctioning
Posted on May 30, 2017 | link
Fact: As motorists ourselves, we understand the frustration of the “ghost train” and malfunctioning crossing arms. It is not guaranteed that the city will receive notifications of these issues ahead of time. We are working on improving the communication process with Union Pacific to receive more immediate railroad service notifications, future construction schedules and work as they make changes to try and address the ongoing issues. We ask that our citizens partner with us in delivering messages to Union Pacific Railroad when they encounter issues with the tracks by contacting the UP Response Management Communications center at 888-877-7267.