Even though residents of The Woodlands still have another four decades to make such a decision, The Woodlands Township is already starting the process of possible incorporation. This week, the township board during preliminary budgeting discussions agreed to set aside $2.5 million just in case The Woodlands does, in fact, become a city soon. And it appears as though that effort is well underway. Three years ago, the township conducted a feasibility study on the cost of becoming its own city. The study revealed in order to become an incorporated city—rather than the special purpose district of the current governance format—the township would likely need to increase its property tax rate by more than 22 cents per $100 of valuation. The revenue increase would be needed to fund services that are currently passed on to Montgomery County, such as a police department and public works department. However, some township directors think a new study is needed to reflect current economics. Ultimately, the decision on whether The Woodlands will incorporate lies with its residents—the township board can only put the issue up to a citizen vote rather than make the decision unilaterally. The township, meanwhile, is holding its annual board election this year, so expect incorporation to be the topic du jour this season.
For a while there it seemed oil was headed toward another long-term collapse when, beginning in about late June, West Texas Intermediate prices once again began to trend downward. On June 7, WTI hit a 2016 peak of $50.36 per barrel, and producers slowly began to put a few more rigs back in operation. But, beginning with an Energy Information Administration report that showed U.S. oil stocks were well above industry expectations, WTI prices began to fall again. On Aug. 2, the price of a barrel fell below $40 for the first time since April. The WTI rally began in mid-August when speculation arose that OPEC would institute a production freeze and U.S. stockpiles did, in fact, start to decrease. However, the gains could be short-lived as the increases in gasoline usage that typically come during the summer traveling season decline as school starts back up.
Yes, summer, at least for the kids, is all but over. On Monday, the 2016-17 school year begins with the first day of school. The year begins just two weeks after the Texas Education Agency released its 2016 accountability ratings—essentially a report card for statewide school districts. The state utilizes a metric that analyzes student achievement, student progress, a school or district’s ability to close performance gaps and post-secondary readiness. Conroe ISD fared well, with only one of the district’s campuses earning an “improvement required” overall grade—Houston Elementary. And the district’s students, as they typically do, outperformed the state average on test scores.
Aetna this week announced it was pulling out of the federal health care exchange in Texas—better known as Obamacare—because of soaring costs. Aetna follows other health insurance majors like UnitedHealth and Humana in leaving the exchange. The result is that residents who choose (or have no choice in choosing) the federal health care exchange will have fewer choices (see: higher costs) in health care providers. The loss of Aetna from the Affordable Care Act is another blow to Texas residents seeking health insurance. According to the Dallas Morning News, there are 5 million Texans who are uninsured.
In one of the strongest signs yet that I-45 could indeed be re-routed around Downtown Houston, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told the Urban Land Institute this week construction on a $7 billion transportation plan could begin in 2020. However, the Texas Department of Transportation, which is proposing re-routing I-45 east of downtown, habitually misses expected construction dates, often by years. The plan is to tear down the Pierce Elevated that bisects Downton Houston. Realty News Report is backing a plan—which has succeeded in Dallas—to build the new freeway underground and cover it with a linear park. This story provides more detail about the project, including a conceptual video prepared by TxDOT.