December 16, 2019

Persistence Pays Off:  Bellaire Awarded $4.35 Million in CDBG Disaster Recovery Grants

Over the past few years, city staff have been hard at work applying for every disaster recovery and mitigation grant for which we’re eligible to apply.  Though historically we’ve not had much luck based on our relative income demographics, we’ve pressed ahead in pursuit of our fair share.  Our persistence is paying off.

One of the more significant funding opportunities is the federal CDBG-DR (Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery) program.  Based on the levels of damage we experienced in the presidentially declared disasters of Memorial Day 2015 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017, we were allocated $252,033.84 and $4,095,702.00, respectively.  The award of those allocations was not automatic, however.  The first hurdle we had to overcome was the CDBG low-to-moderate income benefit requirement.  Once that was satisfied (on a countywide basis), the specific projects for which we’d applied, the local street and drainage improvements in Group C Phase 3 of our 2016 bond program, had to be approved.  Now that they have been, we’ll be able to pay for most if not all of them with CDBG funds rather than with new debt.

Earlier this year I reported that an August 2019 bond issuance for streets and drainage, and a November 2019 bond election, would no longer be necessary because a combination of unused sidewalk money and cost savings from earlier phases would be enough to keep our progress going for at least another year.  I presented a revised debt forecast, showing the resulting reductions to our projected debt service tax rate and total indebtedness in the coming years.  The revised forecast conservatively assumed an August 2020 bond issuance and a November 2020 bond election, but as I acknowledged at that time, one of the variables that might affect the timing of those was our pending flood mitigation grant applications.

This $4.35 million in CDBG-DR funding buys us yet another year of progress with no new debt, allowing us to again revise our projections.  Over the next five years our debt service tax rate is further reduced by an average of 5.93% (1.04 cents), and total debt by an average of 9.79% ($13.97 million), per year:

As before, for the sake of being conservative in our projections the revised forecast anticipates and assumes our next bond election, but pushed another year out, to November 2021.  The timing on that could still be affected by our other pending grant applications under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, or by opportunities to participate in all-important regional flood control projects, whether coming out of the Bellaire Master Drainage Concept Plan or otherwise.  In the meantime, we’ll be able to use leftover bond funds to get a head start on designing our next round of local drainage projects.

We’re of course very pleased to receive these CDBG-DR grants, both in recognition of the sheer extent of the damage we sustained in the 2015 and 2017 floods and because we rightfully ought to get our fair share of the federal disaster recovery funds to which we contribute with our tax dollars.  The external review and approval of Group C Phase 3 also further validates our systematic approach to local drainage infrastructure improvements.  Congratulations and special thanks to the city staff, including Development Services, City Engineer, Public Works and Finance, for all their hard work on our grant applications.