$4.54 Billion Budget Proposal

Mayor Annise Parker unveiled a $4.54 billion proposed budget, including $2.08 for the General Fund (see her press release here).  The General Fund is where most of the city operations are funded.  Mayor Parker said about the budget that “Houston’s economy is doing much better than it was a year ago. Our job growth continues to be the envy of the rest of the nation, property values are improving, and consumer spending is on the rise. Challenges remain, but we will continue to meet them head on, making the right decisions even when they are tough.”

Let’s take a look at what we know so far:

Positive Aspects:

–          Over two-thirds of the General Fund will continue to be allocated to public safety.
–          Does not include a property tax increase (maintains the existing property tax rate of 63.875 cents per $100 of taxable value).
–          No fee increases.
–          No layoffs/furloughs/ service cuts.
–          Does not borrow money to pay for the pensions.
–          For the most part, it is a flat budget with “with funding levels for all departments at essentially the same levels as last year – with the exception of contractual increases for pensions and increases in health benefits, fuel, electricity, and information technology costs.”
–          The budget replenishes the Rainy Day Fund.

Negative Aspects:

–          Restoring night and weekend hours to the 311 assistance line is a waste of money.  There are so many problems associated with this department.  Calling 311 is often a nightmare for Houstonians.  You have to call several times, and you usually have to get your neighbors to call too before anything is done.  Since nothing will get done no matter what time you call, I see no need to pay for additional hours for this service until this department is more accountable to us.
–          While it is definitely positive that the budget hasn’t increased this year, how do we really know if we are spending the right amount of money in the right areas?  We need a better system to review and automatically remove wasteful spending and unnecessary programs.  Until we have this in place, passing any budget is irresponsible.  Right now it is just a guessing game.

These are just a few items that jumped out at me from reading Mayor Parker’s press release.  I am sure that there will be much more to say about this in the weeks to come as the budget is scrutinized further.  Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the “negative aspects” column will start to grow bigger and bigger… as will the budget once all the council members try to add more to it.


3 Responses to $4.54 Billion Budget Proposal

  1. Mike Sullivan says:

    Great comments, Amy. Thanks for keeping an eye on things down here at city hall.

    • Claudio says:

      I’m reluctantly for this. We have hihegr water and slower drainage in the Heights due to the massive construction of new homes, increased density, and lax enforcement of drainage requirements by the city. I speak from personal experience. We had to have drainage work in our back yard due to several homes that were built behind us by Tricon; the alley was more or less paved, and drainage was inadequate, flooding our back yard. The three homes built on a 10,000 SF lot across from us, plus 2 major expansions of bungalows, plus a front facing garage / home built on a narrow lot all added about 9 commodes, plus dishwashers, disposals, so on long story short, our ditch fills more quickly and drains very slowly. And, now we are paying for it. At least the owners will have to pony up as well.

  2. John says:

    8-10% is a difficult coupomnded return to earn. Real Estate is one of the most overrated investments available. The commonly quoted claims about RE prices never having a losing year are grossly misleading.1. They have a HUGE survivorship bias in that the houses that don’t sell are not figured into the median price. So, if 5 houses are for sale and only one sells, only that price is used.2. They do not factor in quality. The typical new home is 25% bigger and has more amenities than a home 20 years ago, yet the prices are compared without adjustment.3. They do not factor in inflation.Housing prices have risen sharply over the past decade, but adjusted for inflation and quality, home prices barely moved between the 1890 s and the 1990 s.People also forget, when bragging on how much they made on a home, improvements, fees, financing, upkeep, property tax, etc. ssb

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