Houston Mayor: Lawsuits Costing Taxpayers More Than $37-Million
Two lawsuits regarding water and drainage fees are costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, Mayor Annise Parker said. The lawsuits have been backed by Republican activist and former Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, whoâ€™s appealing a water rate hike, passed by Houston City Council earlier this year.
Until that legal hurdle is cleared, Parker said, the city wouldnâ€™t be able to sell bonds to help finance water and sewer improvements. According to a memo between Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts and the cityâ€™s finance department, the legal delay has allowed interest rates to creep back up and â€œhas cost the City of Houston ratepayers an estimated $37.72 million over the life of the issue.â€
When broken down, the numbers represent an average cost of $1.26 million per year over the next 30 years. Bettencourt also filed a lawsuit earlier this month over the cityâ€™s recently-passed drainage fee, which council members must implement by July 1. The suit claims the ballot language â€œintentionally misledâ€ voters and asks a judge to overturn the fee.
â€œThis is just one more example of irresponsible behavior on the part of people who have no care for the needs of the city of Houston itself,â€ Parker said, adding that the previous lawsuit has already cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in outright legal fees.
On Monday, Bettencourt blasted Parker, saying the bond issue was irrelevant since the city shouldnâ€™t be borrowing money to pay for improvements.
â€œSomebody has to stand up for the taxpayers here,â€ Bettencourt said. â€œThis is a classic example of the mayor trying to double-dip on public policy.â€
Bettencourt said Parkerâ€™s support of a pay-as-you-go system seemed contradicted by her desire to sell the bonds.
â€œWhen a politician takes it personal instead of talking about public policy, then you know you have a real policy issue,â€ Bettencourt said.
Additional Funds Added to Texas Appliance Mail-In Rebate Program
The Texas Comptrollerâ€™s office has added $8.5 million to a mail-in rebate program that returns up to $1,000 to Texans, who purchase energy-efficient Energy Star appliances.
Rebates now totaling about $18.5 million are available in eight categories, which range from $40 on room air conditioners to $1,000 on air-source heat pumps. The program, which begins Dec. 20 and will stay open until all funds are distributed, is funded through federal stimulus funds.
The eight categories are: Air-Source Heat Pumps, Central Air Conditioners, Clothes Washers, Dishwashers, Freezers, Refrigerators, Room Air Conditioners, and Water Heaters.
After installation of the appliance, consumers can mail in completed application forms and a copy of the receipt to receive a rebate. Rebate forms are available online and more information about the program can be found at www.TexasPowerfulSmart.org