Galveston city officials appeared at the final public hearing by the House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike. It’s developing recommendations for more effective responses to disasters. Texas does have a disaster recovery fund, but lawmakers have never put any money into it. City Manager Steve LeBlanc says the most pressing need is help with cash flow.
“What’s gonna hurt us the most in particular next year, is our property values are gonna drop dramatically. We’re estimating somewhere in the order of 35 to 40-percent drop and so, with that much of a reduction in our property tax revenue, that’s gotta be made up somehow, someway, and we figure that sales tax would be a way to do it, if we could just keep some of the portion, if not all of the portion that the state gets from us here locally.”
He says by temporarily refunding sales taxes it would help the city provide essential services. He adds a loan from the state emergency fund could help in a federal rescue plan.
“We would take that money and use it to provide the local match for federal dollars. So we would leverage that to maximize the amount of money that the community needs to rebuild.”
LeBlanc and other city leaders think it’s an easier way for the state to help, like it did after the 1900 storm.
“It’s not without precedent, and it could be used as a method for other communities along the Texas coast to fund the next storm that hits Brownsville or wherever it decides to go in to the Texas coast.”
Despite a hiring freeze and a 3 percent pay cut for all employees, more municipal layoffs are still a possibility.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.