Although much of unincorporated Harris County is served by municipal utility districts, the county government is responsible for providing many services, such as law enforcement and road maintenance, that are typically provided by cities. For this reason, the question of whether city taxpayers subsidize services outside the city has long been debated. At the same time, it should be noted that the county provides many services, such as justice administration and hospital care, to all residents of the county no matter where they live.

This study was initiated as the result of a budget amendment from Houston City Councilmember Abbie Kamin to identify the amount of County property taxes paid by City of Houston residents and businesses compared to the cost for County services provided within City of Houston limits. Although residents and businesses pay a variety of taxes, this report is limited to property taxes. It does not take into account, for example, sales tax revenue generated inside the city as a result of purchases by Harris County residents who live outside the city.

The Kinder Institute retained the firm of TischlerBise to conduct the technical analysis. Financial support for this report was provided by both the City of Houston and Arnold Ventures. Harris County, especially the Budget Management Office and the Commissioners Court Analyst’s Office, provided critical information and advice.

Issues