Big Oaks Municipal Utility District of Fort Bend County, Texas (the “District”) was created by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on November 1, 1983. The District includes 594.71 acres of land within the West Oaks Village and Twin Oaks Village subdivisions.
The District operates and maintains the water, sanitary sewer, and drainage systems within the District. These systems include a water plant and sanitary sewer treatment plant. Additionally, the District maintains the detention ponds and drainage channels in the District. It also maintains the jogging trails around those areas.
The District is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of five (5) individuals who are residents of the District. The Board meets once a month at noon on the second Wednesday of each month at the offices of the District’s operator’s office, Municipal Operations & Consulting, at 1825 North Mason Road, Katy, Texas 77449. All meetings of the Board are open to the public and the public is invited to attend. In addition, the Board of Directors meets occasionally in the District at the West Oaks Village recreation center.
Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs) are political subdivisions of the State of Texas authorized by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide water, sewage, drainage (WS&D) and other utility-related services within the MUD boundaries. Texas has more than 1,200 Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs) and special districts such as Levee Improvement Districts (LIDs), general Utility Districts, and others. Many of these, like Big Oaks MUD, are located outside of city limits where there are no city services.
Without these Districts, many neighborhoods could not exist and would never have been built. Through the authorization and sale of Bonds, the necessary water, sewer, and drainage infrastructure can be financed. The particular MUD or special district is then responsible to pay off the Bonds and manage/maintain the infrastructure for the benefit of the neighborhood.
MUDs and other special districts are often considered to be the most regulated of all forms of local government. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates MUDs. For example, the TCEQ has extensive rules regarding the design, construction, and financing of water, sewer, drainage, and Park infrastructure. MUDs are required to follow these rules.
Bond ratings agencies cite the TCEQ’s process of reviewing and approving MUD bonds as an important reason for favorable MUD bond ratings. In addition, a MUD must receive the TCEQ’s approval for any plans and specifications for water and sewer infrastructure construction. This includes conflict of interest disclosures, contract documents, and change orders.
Additionally, MUDs are subject to a myriad of state and federal regulations, including the Texas Public Information Act, Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Election Code, U.S. Voting Rights Act, Texas Public Funds Investment Act, Bond approval by the Texas Attorney General’s office, IRS and U.S. Treasury Department regulations, and other Texas laws regulating matters such as conflicts of interest and ethics.
State law also imposes strict requirements on MUD bookkeeping, auditing, and financial reporting. MUDs must engage a CPA to annually audit the MUD’s fiscal accounts and records. The MUD’s Board of Directors manages and controls all of the affairs of the MUD subject to the continuing supervision of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and other governmental agencies. To fulfill these obligations, the Board contracts with a wide range of specialist Consultants including Facility Operators, Engineers, Bookkeepers, Tax Assessor/Collectors, CPAs and Auditors, Landscapers, Attorneys, and others as needed.
MUDs are managed by a five-member Board of Directors that serve staggered four-year terms. All Big Oaks MUD Directors serve “at large”, meaning they represent the entire District equally without regard to whichever portion of the MUD they live in. To serve on a MUD Board in Texas, a person must be a United States citizen, must be eligible to vote in Texas, must be age 18 or over, and must either reside in the MUD or own real property in the MUD.
In Big Oaks MUD, all five Directors are residents and property owners within the District. Besides these legal requirements, Big Oaks MUD Directors need to be available for monthly daytime meetings, special meetings as needed, meetings of related organizations, and often extensive meeting preparation.
Contrasting MUDs and HOA’s
HOA’s typically carry responsibility for maintaining their common areas, any HOA-owned recreational facilities such as pools and playgrounds, and for enforcing Deed Restrictions. None of those things involve Big Oaks MUD. In general, there is very little overlap between what Big Oaks MUD does and what the two HOA’s (West Oaks Village and Twin Oaks Village) do.
Big Oaks MUD provides water, sewer, and local drainage/detention services (collectively referred to WS&D) within the bounds of the District. This includes maintenance and repair of infrastructure (water tanks, fresh water supply, and water lines; sewer lines and sewer treatment; drainage facilities such as culverts, storm drains, retention ponds; and the release of excess water into the drainage canal that runs outside the southern boundary of the George Bush Park levee. Big Oaks MUD must also plan for future needs related to those responsibilities.
Besides these primary responsibilities, Big Oaks MUD contracts for garbage/recycling collection. The MUD also shares in the cost of Mosquito Control as well as the supplemental Police patrols through the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Contract Deputy program. The cost of the Contract Deputy program and Mosquito Control is divided between the MUD, West Oaks Village HOA, and Twin Oaks Village HOA in such a manner that the cost per household in the District is evenly distributed between all households.
From time to time, the MUD may develop, expand, or enhance recreational facilities such as trails and walking paths. The District is legally authorized to further develop additional Park and Recreational facilities, though it is not currently doing so. The District does not have responsibility for or oversight of the two HOAs’ common areas, playgrounds, swimming pools, or recreational facilities.
Responsibility for mowing within the MUD’s boundaries is divided between several entities. Mowing of MUD facilities, paid for by the District, includes the retention ponds, the Water Plant, the Sewage Treatment Plant, and a few other areas such as along trails. Areas mowed by the District can be seen in this website on the mowing map provided by the District’s Landscaper. Other mowing/landscaping responsibilities variously belong to West Oaks Village HOA, Twin Oaks Village HOA, Fort Bend County, Fort Bend ISD, and Entex.
Neither the MUD nor the HOA’s maintain the roads in the MUD. The roads have been deeded to Fort Bend County and are the County’s responsibility. Occasionally, the MUD will repair or maintain the drainage system that is within the right-of-way, but only on a limited basis.
Though the phrase “conflict of interest” is occasionally brought up, there is actually very little opportunity for a conflict of interest to arise between Big Oaks MUD and the two HOA’s because there is a very small overlap of responsibilities. Where such overlap may occur, it is considered insignificant. The State of Texas has specific guidelines regulating Conflict of Interest.
- The MUD provides Water, Sewer, and Drainage (WS&D) services, etc., for the entire District without regard for the boundaries of the HOA’s.
- The MUD also pays for WS&D infrastructure (including water tanks, water lines, sewer lines and sewer treatment, and storm drainage).
- The HOA’s provide their services (including Deed Restriction enforcement, common area maintenance, electricity for streetlights, etc.) within the bounds of the particular HOA.
- The MUD has nothing to do with Deed Restrictions, individual lawn maintenance, appearance and exterior painting of homes, etc.
- The HOA’s have nothing to do with the MUD’s WS&D responsibilities.
MUDs are created by the State of Texas. An HOA is typically created by the Subdivision’s Developer at the time the subdivision is being planned. MUDs are supported by monthly water bills and annual property taxes. HOA’s are supported by annual dues and other special assessments. MUDs utilize a number of specialized Consultants; HOA’s typically utilize a single Property Management firm. MUDs are far more highly regulated than HOA’s, though the State Legislature has in recent years begun providing some additional regulation over HOA’s.
The qualification and election of MUD Directors is regulated by the State of Texas. The election of HOA Directors is conducted under rules described in each HOA’s Covenants and other documents.
West Oaks Village HOA and Twin Oaks Village HOA are fully separate from each other and from the MUD. Big Oaks MUD encompasses both of the HOA’s, Barbara Jordan Elementary, and a limited number of commercial properties, including the Daycare behind the Drug Store on Bellaire and several other businesses along the west side of FM1464.