City takes major hit with judge's decision to void drainage fee tax

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It’s unprecedented for the state of Texas.The possibility that a municipality will have to return half a billion dollars to taxpayers.

“That number is going to rise by over a hundred million every single year that the city delays this issue, kicks it down the road, and continues to collect this tax,” said attorney Andy Taylor.

In 2010 voters were asked to approve a drainage fee tax known to most as Rebuild Houston.

It passed by only one percent. But the way it appeared on the ballot was misleading according to a judge’s ruling handed down Thursday.

“The city charter is void, the city amendment is void,” said attorney Joe Slovacek.

These men say they told the city over and over again the way the drainage fee appeared on the ballot was misleading.

This is far from being the first time a court has ruled the city used misleading language at the ballot box.

“She’s now lost 5 cases in a row,” said state Senator Paul Bettencourt.

With the possibility of having to repay half a billion dollars to taxpayers makes this one Mayor Parker’s costliest court loss to date.

“It’s an “A” bomb for the city’s budget,” said Bettencourt.

Parker is already saying the city will likely appeal.

“In the meantime our streets are going to be in the terrible condition they are now,” said mayoral candidate Bill King. “We need to put this behind us and back to the business of getting streets fixed.”

“Our mayor Annise Parker--today could cancel the drainage fee, will she?” said Slovacek.

No she won’t.

According to a statement Parker released on Thursday, the court ruling means the city cannot use the drainage fee on anything other than street and drainage improvements.

As far as the Mayor is concerned, the city can continue the Rebuild Houston program and collect the drainage fee.