Voters Have Two Options For Metro Funding On November Ballot

The board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has finalized its proposal for a ballot referendum in November. Voters that live in Metro's service area will be allowed to choose whether to continue a controversial revenue-sharing program. But there is a small twist.

Metro is the regional transit agency, in charge of buses, light rail and Park and Rides. It’s funded by a one-cent sales tax.

But since 1988, Metro has shared one-quarter of that tax with Harris County and 15 cities and towns, like Houston, Katy and Bellaire. The cities and county can use the money for their own road and bridge projects.

But that agreement expires soon, and voters must decide what to do in November.

The chairman of Metro’s board, Gil Garcia, wanted some of that diverted money to stay with Metro.

“I’m worried for the public. Because I know transit needs are increasing, rapidly. So I’m concerned we may not have the funds to meet those needs, and that’s everything from the bus system, rail, Park and Rides, it’s the totality of the system.”

The new ballot proposal will give voters with the following choice:

A ‘no’ vote would end the diversion of money, called the General Mobility Program. Metro would get to keep the entire one-cent sales tax.

A ‘yes’ vote would continue the program but would change how the diverted money gets divided up between cities and the county.

David Crossley is an advocate for mass transit. He says Metro really needs all the money so it can cope with sprawling growth and a booming population.

“If you voted no for this, that would end the program and all the money would begin to flow to Metro.”

But Crossley says a ‘yes’ vote would at least bring more fairness to the revenue-sharing program.

Right now, some of the smaller cities get back more money from the Metro program than they contribute in sales tax. But Houston gets less money.

“There’s no rhyme or reason when you look to see why does Piney Point get $16 back for every dollar they put in, and the city gets 20 cents back for every dollar they put in.”

A ‘yes’ vote would adjust the revenue sharing, so Houston would get a bigger share of the money, while Harris County and some smaller cities would get less. Katy, Humble, and Missouri City would get about the same.

 

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Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...