2018 Bond Program FAQ

2018 Bond Program FAQ

Last Modified: 05/20/2020 06:06 PM

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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE 2020 BOND PROGRAM PROJECT LIST UPDATES

Why is the Harris County Flood Control District updating the 2018 Bond Program Project list that was originally provided to voters in advance of the 2018 Bond Election?

The update addresses administrative corrections, reflects secured partnership funding, provides updated cost estimates for some initiated projects, and updates the number and status of projects within the program. It is important to note that the proposed update does not cancel any projects or transfer funds from any project to another.

Are any projects being removed from the list?

No projects have been removed from the 2018 Bond Program originally approved by Harris County voters.

Why are there fewer projects on the list than before?

The updated Bond Project List includes 181 projects, as compared to 237 on the original list. This is because similar projects in each watershed are being combined into one countywide project for more efficient project management, record-keeping and execution. Those changes include:

  • 20 individual watershed storm repair projects are now combined in Bond ID Z-StormRep,
  • 17 individual watershed projects to buy and clear flood-prone properties are now combined in Bond ID Z-Buyout;
  • And 16 watershed subdivision drainage projects are now combined in Bond ID Z-Subdiv.

Several other projects are also being combined for various reasons. An example is two partnership projects related to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing study of the effectiveness and operation of the Addicks and Barker federal reservoirs. These two projects have been combined into one project, Bond ID C-40, instead of being separated into two projects by watershed.

See 2018 Bond Program Consolidated Project List

Are there any new projects added since the 2018 Bond Election?

Yes, four new projects added to the program which include:

  1. Bond ID F-122, a Bond Implementation Manager (BIM) project for Halls Bayou watershed, reflecting a new Flood Control District approach to completing all projects in the watershed as quickly and efficiently as possible, in less than 10 years. This new project is funded by way of a pro-rata reallocation of local funds from projects in the watershed that the BIM will manage, including from bond funding allocated for the Halls Bayou Federal Project, which was not approved by the federal government to move forward.
  2. Bond ID F-123, a similar BIM project for the Cedar Bayou watershed.
  3. Bond ID Z-11, which funds community engagement efforts, as promised and included in the ballot language for the 2018 HCFCD Bond Program.
  4. Bond ID F-124, an effort to investigate drainage deficiencies, flooding problems and evaluate potential solutions to reduce the risk of flooding in the Carpenters Bayou watershed for more than 550 structures in the Atlas 14 1 percent (100-year) floodplain.

Note: Several other projects from the original list have already been given new Bond IDs. They are not new projects, just renamed. For example: The project for watershed planning previously identified as Z100-00-00-PLAN is now officially identified as Z-03. Same project; new name.

What happened to the $500 million contingency fund?

The original 2018 Bond Program showed a $500M contingency line item, which contributed to an overall bond package value of $3.1B. At the time the Program was proposed, there was public acknowledgement that we had about a $620M shortfall, with the hope that as the Program progressed, additional funding sources would become available to help address this shortfall. Due to a significant shortage of partnership funds, we are reducing the $500M of funding shown in the contingency line item from the Program.

Instead, the updated Program contingency line item will consist of reimbursements from various grant programs, reimbursements of a portion of the local match required for certain grants, cash-in-hand funds from the District’s ad valorem tax collections, and funds that are no longer assigned to Bond projects because other sources of funding were used. Attachment 2 documents where funding from others sources has been used to either fully or partially fund projects. Our current balance of these funds is approximately $8.1M in 2018 Bond funds and $5M in funds received as reimbursements or remaining CIP funds to help supplement the Program.

The contingency funds will be distributed to various Bond projects with priority given to projects in construction or in final design to start construction. However, a portion of the current contingency will be held in reserve proportionate to the number of remaining, yet to be initiated projects to help ensure we have some contingency available for the life of the Program. The primary use for the contingency funds will be to make up for funding shortfalls during the construction phase of project lifecycle. Construction costs continue to escalate due to various and multiple factors. Contingency funding could be used to offset the fact that there is less partnership funding available. When contingency funding is not available, some projects will have to be phased, with subsequent phases on hold pending additional funding sources.

How does the updated Bond Program Project List show local funding?

The original Bond Program Project List included a set of projects with associated local funding totaling approximately $3.1 billion, i.e. more than the $2.5 billion approved by voters. At the time, the intent was to demonstrate the tremendous need for flood risk reduction projects across Harris County, and to have a reserve of additional worthwhile projects lined up in case additional local funding or partnership funding became available.

The updated Bond Program Project List strives for enhanced transparency by ensuring that all projects on the list have identified bond funding totaling no more than the voter approved $2.5 billion, and that any additional local funding beyond the $2.5 billion needed to complete those projects is clearly listed as “Estimated District Funding.” This would be provided via the Flood Control District’s annual budget, another bond program, or some other means, as approved by Harris County Commissioners Court.

The updated list clarifies that more than $168 million in additional estimated local funding will be needed to complete the projects.

Did Harris County receive all of the federal, state and local partnership funding estimated in the original Bond Program Project List?

No.

The good news is that the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act approved 100 percent funding for all remaining large federal flood risk reduction projects in the White Oak Bayou, Clear Creek, Hunting Bayou and Brays Bayou watersheds -- $357 million – rather than a smaller percentage/amount that would have required a local match from the bond funding.

A countywide total of approximately $678 million in partnership funds have been secured so far for all bond projects. Combined with $257 million in local funds, this amounts to $935 million in projects countywide.

Partnership funding remains an important component for successful completion of the 2018 Bond Program. The Flood Control District continues to seek partnership funding opportunities with area municipalities, utility districts and other federal, state and local groups.

2018 BOND PROGRAM FAQ

How soon will the bond money be available?

Commissioners Court acted on October 23, 2018, to authorize up to $186 million in short-term financing to ensure a quick start for flood control bond projects following the successful $2.5 billion bond election in August. The funds became available October 26 and will be repaid with the proceeds of future bond sales.

Bonds will be offered for sale on the open public bond market by authorization of Harris County Commissioners Court. The bonds will not be sold all at once, but in increments over at least 10-15 years, as needed for the projects and multiple phases of each project. The actual timing of individual projects will depend on a variety of factors including needed environmental permitting, right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation. Projects will be authorized individually for funding by Harris County Commissioners Court, based on recommendations by the Flood Control District.

How will the Flood Control District prioritize which projects will be built first?

The Bond Program list represents projects that meet the goal of the bond election, which is both to assist with recovery after previous flooding events (including Harvey) and to make our county more resilient for the future. However, the estimated total cost of projects on the list exceeds $2.5 billion, and there must be some flexibility in maintaining this list as projects are defined, designed and constructed. Over the next several years, projects on the list could be altered based upon community input or design constraints, be removed, or new projects added, depending on future unknown conditions including right-of-way availability, changing environmental regulations and funding that may become available from other partners.

High on the priority list are construction-ready projects with federal funding partners (such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) that give the County “the most bang for its flood control buck.”

Projects will be prioritized based upon a number of factors, including:

  • Readiness for preliminary engineering, design or construction
  • Availability and/or time-sensitive nature of partnership funding
  • Clearly defined drainage issues and flood risk reduction benefits
  • Benefits relative to the community’s population

How can I find out more information about the Bond Program as it becomes available?

The goal is to have an open, transparent process, with the proposed list of projects as a starting place. Information about the status of Bond Program projects will be available in the future on this website. In addition, the Flood Control District is committed to having community engagement as part of each project.

How can I participate in developing the bond program?

Now that the bonds have passed, opportunities for further community engagement will be available for each project. As part of the preliminary engineering process conducted near the beginning of each project’s development stage, and prior to a formal Preliminary Engineering Report being presented to Commissioners Court for approval, the Flood Control District will conduct a public meeting in a primary project watershed to solicit public comments about the project.

Please check the website for details of upcoming Community Engagement project meetings .

How much will the bonds cost property taxpayers?

The full cost of the bond will be phased in over several years, and will not impact property tax bills all at once. The Flood Control District plans to use these bonds over a 10- to 15-year period, as project timelines allow. Based on what could be $2.5 billion in bonds and a likely borrowing schedule over approximately 15 years, the Harris County Budget Management Department estimates that the overall tax increase will be no more than 2-3 cents per $100 of home valuation – meaning that most homeowners will see an increase of no more than 1.4 percent in their overall property tax. A homeowner with an over-65 or disabled exemption and a home worth $200,000 or less would not pay any additional taxes for these bonds.

Can the bond money be used for purposes other than flood risk reduction?

No. Under Texas law, bond funds in this election can only be used for the purpose approved by the voters. For example, bond funds will not be used to fund permanent staff positions at the Harris County Flood Control District, or for recreational amenities.

May bond proceeds be used only for the specific projects as described on the Bond Program list?

No. Specific projects may be added to the list in the future or projects on the list could be modified based upon public input and other factors.