Mayor White Says City Needs to Share the TIRZ Wealth

Mayor Bill White leads a heated discussion on tax increment investment zones and how they benefit only portions of the city. He says they need to find a way for the whole city to share the wealth. Pat Hernandez has the story.
Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones keep a lot of the tax revenues within its boundaries. But that means taxes generated above a set baseline are not shared with the rest of the city. Mayor Bill White says that creates a situation where some areas benefit over others.

"Right now, you have the areas with the highest property value of the city like downtown and the Galleria area for example, who pay a much, much, much smaller percentage of their property taxes for things like the salaries of police officers than do other parts of the city."

Council members like Pam Holm and Toni Lawrence defended TIRZs.

"I understand clearly what you're saying in money is there is misused for the infrastructure. I know that sometimes we don't agree on this, but I think that there are opportunities in the city our size, as large as we are, that we manage it. We put the criteria the city that we manage and it gives us opportunity, really for more infrastructure."

"You can always find different ways to improve things like TIRZ, but they're so much beneficial when businesses get together and say 'we want to fund these projects and, that's kind of a simplification of TIRZ. I don't see anything wrong even if the amount of money that they're willing to put in because of their location, exceeds some other pot of money. I think that only helps Houston in the long run."

Mayor White says they need to find a way for the entire city to share revenue.

"I think this city council has cracked down on consulting fees as a percentage of the overall TIRZ budget. We have more contributions to public safety in these TIRZ budgets. We have more improvements that are bread and butter improvements that everybody wants. So, generally, I think this city council wants more basics and less frills."

White says soon almost half the money available for capital improvements within the city under the general fund will be within the TIRZ.

Pat Hernandez. KUHF- Houston Public Radio News.

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...