Drainage district needs to serve all its residents

By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 18, 2017 at midnight

Victoria County has the makings for a modern-day Boston Tea Party. Instead of throwing tea into the Boston Harbor, Victoria officials want to throw the drink into the drainage ditches.

The discussion is all about taxation without representation.

Drainage District No. 3 collects taxes from property owners who live in the boundaries of the district as well as inside the Victoria city limits, but does not service the ditches that are in the district and the city.

Taxes paid by those city residents make up 83 percent of the district's tax revenue.

Mayor Paul Polasek is right in requesting the district work with the city to maintain the ditches within the city. He is asking the district pay the city $120,000 annually - the amount it costs the city to maintain the ditches in that part of the city.

Such an agreement would be a win for both entities. If one cannot be worked out, then the district's lines should be redrawn to remove the city from its taxing authority.

The drainage district was formed in 1915 to maintain the ditches to keep down flooding. At the time the lines were drawn none of the land was in the city. As the city has grown, those areas have been annexed by the city and developed.

Polasek initially asked the county commissioners court to approve a resolution asking the legislature to redraw the district's lines. He introduced a similar resolution to the City Council. He has since withdrawn that part of the request, but taxpayers should keep asking hard questions.

The city has been trying since the 1990s to get the district to sign an interlocal agreement without success.

In 2000, the city sent the district a letter about a 1998 interlocal agreement with the city, but the district never sign it.

The district appears to be sitting comfortably with the taxpayers money, but is unwilling to provide services or answers to those it taxes.

City residents of the drainage district who pay property taxes deserve both.

We are not sure how the district has spent the taxpayers' money over the years.

When the Advocate asked for copies of the district's budgets, the drainage district instead spent more taxpayer money to hire an expensive law firm that specializes in keeping public records from the public. The law firm also represents Victoria County and the Victoria County Sheriff's Office. Budget information is unquestionably open to the public.

The district has flown under the public radar for so long that its three-member, elected board appears unaware of or have disregard for the rules of conducting public business.

Until the drainage district lets the public know how it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money, taxpayers have every right to question the appropriateness of the board's actions and whether the agency should even exist. Too often, these relatively small taxing entities fly under the radar of public scrutiny and thus become ripe for abuse.

The city and drainage district need to work together to come up with a plan so all city and county residents of the drainage district receive equal services. If such a partnership cannot be formed in an open and transparent way, then Victoria residents should revolt in much the way our forefathers did.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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