October 26, 2021

Bellaire Citizens Academy Finance Presentation:  How Do We Compare?

After taking a year off because of COVID-19, the Bellaire Citizens Academy is back in session.  Last week the group received a presentation from the Finance Department, which included among other details some comparative data showing how we stack up against other cities in terms of taxes, water and wastewater rates, and indebtedness.  Given there’s been a lot of interest recently in this very subject, I thought I would share the comparative data handout with the broader audience.

The comparator communities are chosen based on population, suburban or enclave residential character, and land area.  The City of Houston is included as well, given its proximity to Bellaire and as a natural reference along with West U. and Southside Place.

What we see is that Bellaire compares quite favorably, and is below the average in overall property tax burden.  Even as, like other predominately residential cities, we rely disproportionately on revenues from property taxes over sales taxes.  Our water and wastewater rates, despite recent increases to keep up with rising costs, are also still well below the average.

As for our debt, we already know it’s comparatively high per capita.  However, it’s somewhat less so when considered in terms of affordability—as a percentage of our healthy appraised values and in relation to personal incomes, which is reflected in our AAA bond rating.  Currently one-third of our property tax revenues go to debt service, a manageable ratio and really not so unusual (in fact, in West U. it’s about the same).  None of that is in any way to play down the amount of debt we carry, but simply to provide some important perspective.  Let’s also not lose sight of all that we’ve accomplished with that debt, the vast majority of which has been driven by streets and drainage, and water and wastewater infrastructure projects, and all of which was voter approved (and by wide margins).

You can watch a complete recording of the Finance Department presentation online.  This year’s Citizens Academy wraps up next week, and participants will be publicly recognized at the November 15 City Council meeting.  Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis; interested residents are invited to learn more and sign up through the City website.