Page 9 | THE ESSENTIALS
Bellaire budget proposes maximum tax increase before cap
Is it prudent planning or an endaround
a state-imposed property tax
cap? That’s part of the discussion, as
Bellaire’s considers City Manager Paul
Hofmann’s proposed budget for fiscal
The proposal does offset the property tax
relief, approved to great fanfare in the
Texas State Legislature this spring, by
seeking the maximum 8 percent increase
currently allowed under state law.
After this year, the cap — signed into law
by Gov. Greg Abbott — will limit municipal
governments to maximum annual
increases of 3.5 percent on existing property.
If a taxing entity such as Bellaire
wants more than that, the increase would
require an election and voter approval.
New construction or developments would
not be subject to the cap.
That legislative limitation, which led
to forecasts showing Bellaire’s annual
ending fund balances will drop below “acceptable
levels” over the next few years,
caused Hofmann and his staff to create a
proposal that would “build our reserves
now while we still can… to help carry
the city through the anticipated difficult
budget years ahead of us.”
If property owners want lower taxes, both
staff and City Council have said, they will
have to decide what they are willing to
Bellaire’s number-crunchers project the
cost to the average homeowner will be
about $150 this fiscal year. On top of that,
water rate increases that were deferred
after Hurricane Harvey have been added
in FY 2020.
The public hearing on the proposal and
the first budget workshop was set for 6
p.m. on Aug. 12 in Council Chambers at
Bellaire City Hall, 7008 S. Rice Ave., but
the process still has a way to go before a
vote in September. A second workshop is
scheduled, same time and place, on Aug.
The final, certified tax roll is expected to
be presented at the City Council’s Sept.
9 meeting, with a vote anticipated on the
tax rate increase. The city’s fiscal year
begins on Oct. 1.
put the brakes on Chevron
While the official city notice merely said
that the Planning & Zoning Commission
“will no longer be taking action on the
requests for a re-zone, planned development,
and specific use permits” on
the former Chevron property at 4800
Fournace Place at its Aug. 8 meeting, Essentials
has learned that serious concerns
about the extent of soil and possibly
groundwater contamination has delayed
any further consideration.
After decades as a research and storage
facility first for Texaco, then for Chevron,
the full scope of chemical and radioactive
contamination hasn’t fully been determined,
residents have told city leaders
both in public and private meetings. The
most recent communication from the
Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality indicated that it had not finished
reviewing data, according to information
presented at P&Z.
SLS Properties has proposed a mixed-use
development with an 85-foot-tall apartment
complex, new offices (in addition
to the two existing office buildings), and
entertainment functions including a
movie theater, restaurants and athletic
club over the 30-acre parcel just outside
the West Loop.
The property is bordered to the north and
south by single family homes, and many
of those residents turned out to voice
their concerns at a nearly five-hour public
hearing last month.
While it decides its next step, the P&Z’s
written comment period is still open
by emailing email@example.com or
writing the commission in care of Bellaire
City Hall, 7800 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire
P&Z tackles code revisions
Bellaire’s Planning & Zoning Commission
is considering revisions to the City Code
of Ordinances after holding a workshop
They deal with items detailed in Section
24 of the code, ranging from adding requirements
for submitting an application
for a special use permit; establishing an
allowance for porch encroachment into
a front yard setback; increasing fence
height allowances, including those adjacent
to a commercial district, along the
Loop 610 frontage roads, and the Union
Pacific Railroad tracks; and clarifying
some definitions contained in the code.
The P&Z is expected to hold a public
hearing on the proposed revisions in
Web tool helps residents
control water bills
Bellaire is now offering residents a free
online service to help their monitor their
water usage and bills. Known as Aqua-
Hawk, the portal allows residents to set
up an account to set and receive alerts
and offers tools to help control their bills
by reducing water use.
Registration can be performed at https://
Save the date
Bellaire will celebrate the completion of
its municipal facilities — a new City Hall,
Civic Center and Police/Courts building
— with tours, a ribbon-cutting and a
concert on Sept. 13.
Self-guided tours with employees on
hand to answer questions will begin at
4:30 p.m., with the formal ceremony beginning
at 6 p.m., and a concert by Ezra
Charles from 6:30-8 p.m. on the Great
Lawn of Bellaire Town Square.