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This story is part four of a four-part series on the 2023 fiscal year for Harris County.
The Harris County Flood Control District was set to receive $137 million under a budget proposed by Democratic county officials. Instead, the district ended up with tens of millions less, after Republican commissioners boycotted budget meetings last year and a lower tax rate went into effect.
The biggest consequence of flood control’s reduced budget will be deferred maintenance of flood control projects, adding to an already existing backlog, according to Flood Control Director Tina Petersen.
“In recent years, there’s been progress towards addressing that backlog. But more investment is needed, not less,” Petersen said at a Commissioners Court meeting in September. “Failure to address these types of maintenance issues that we’re seeing in our channels can put critical infrastructure at risk.”
For years, the Harris County Flood Control District’s operating budget has stayed right around $120 million. In the past, about half would go to maintenance and the other half to capital projects, according to Harris County Budget Director Daniel Ramos.
“We were doing a pittance,” Ramos said. “We weren’t building anything; we were maintaining very little.”
But that changed after Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017.
“Everybody realizes flood controls asleep at that helm; we need to do a lot more,” Ramos said. “Flood control had very little debt. Because they hadn’t done a bond in years.”