What Happened to Transparency?
The Woodlands Township has doubled down on their erroneous and inconsistent incorporation plans. On Monday, Sept. 27, the Township issued a press release responding to independent, expert analyses, which identified major flaws in the Township’s law enforcement and financial plans that would lead to either higher taxes or a dramatic reduction in services like public safety. In the press release, they restated or distorted incorrect data identified by the experts and made false claims to try to disprove their conclusions.
“The Township’s responses highlight troubling inconsistencies and a disappointing lack of transparency, underscoring their rushed, risky and expensive attempt to incorporate The Woodlands,” said Richard Franks, local resident and Preserve The Woodlands Advisory Board Member.
The Township falsely claims:
o “The consultant’s claim that law enforcement operations and capital were underfunded by $7.7 million was based on analyzing a different law enforcement model than the one approved by The Woodlands Township’s Board of Directors.”
o “The consultants understated funding for already current Township contracted law enforcement personnel by $11.4 million.”
o “The consultants understated available Township funding for law enforcement vehicles by $6.1 million.”
Independent law enforcement experts reviewed the Board-approved “The Woodlands Township, Texas – 2019 Law Enforcement Analysis,” dated January 15, 2020, and “Incorporation Study Consolidated Report” dated May 15, 2020, and “The Interlocal Agreement (ILA) between Montgomery County and The Woodlands Township for Law Enforcement Services in the Event of Municipal Incorporation.” These are the law enforcement incorporation documents made available to the public, which are posted to the Township’s Incorporation Website.
On July 22, 2021, in a response to requests from residents that incorporation not be rushed to the November ballot to provide greater opportunity to understand the issues, members of the Board pointed out that “the study has been completed for quite some time,” (46:00) criticized residents for not paying close enough attention, admonished us to study the plan they provided online, and assured us their plan provided a reliable blueprint for establishing our own police department. This is the plan independent experts studied and concluded is insufficient to ensure public safety, including Sheriff Rand Henderson and Constable Ryan Gable.
If there is a different law enforcement model that has been endorsed and accepted by the Township, it has not been shared with residents.
“The consultants understated available Township funding for law enforcement vehicles by $6.1 million.”
The only Board-approved law enforcement plan shared with the public incorrectly stated that the Township currently owns the patrol vehicles and the cost for new vehicles would be $51,821. It was not until the expert analysis was made public that the Board corrected its numbers to bring them in line with what outside law enforcement experts recommended. The original cost of the patrol cars is still included in the law enforcement plan provided to the public and available on the incorporation website.
“The consultants understated funding for additional Township direct law enforcement personnel upon incorporation by $4.8 million to $7.3 million.”
The Board refuses to show voters the true cost of incorporation, including the cost of a full-service police department for Year 5 after incorporation. According to Board member Bruce Rieser at a February 20, 2020, incorporation planning session, “…the funding that we did for the Hybrid Model also assumed a fully-loaded cost for Year 5 for our own department.” (25:40)
The total costs being ignored by the Board amount to $7.65 million in Year 5, when the full-service model is scheduled to take effect, requiring a 15.6 percent property tax rate increase or severe cuts in law enforcement services.
“The consultant’s report did not include $5.9 million already in the Township base budget for public works.”
According to their own slides from the public information meeting, the $5.9 million is budgeted for STREETSCAPING, such as planting flowers along roadways. This is far different from road and bridge maintenance. Once incorporated, the new city currently plans to spend more on landscaping ($5.9 million) than actual road repair ($4.8 million).
“The consultant was off by $2.5 million plus an additional $1.25 million budgeted annually by the Township for concrete and asphalt street rehabilitation.”
THE TRUTH: An independent CPA correctly identified that HR Green, the Township’s Consultant for public works, at a July 24, 2019, Board meeting, clearly recommends $6.25 million for concrete and $2.5 million for asphalt.
INCORPORATION RESERVE FUND
“The consultant was off by $12.2 million on the incorporation reserve balance in the year of 2025 developed by the Township.”
THE TRUTH: The Township, in its presentation on September 16, 2021, confirmed an Incorporation Reserve balance of $20.8 million at the time of incorporation. It also confirmed there are $31.5 million of capital projects allocated to the Incorporation Reserve, $10.7 more than the reserve balance at incorporation