Editor’s note – I’m not sure what the heck happened, but I had put some information from the Mayor’s budget proposal, instead of the final outcome. If Rick Perry gets multiples “oops!” then I’m entitled to one, too. Apologies.
And did I hear that it was a unanimous vote? I think the campaign season has officially begun, now.
Houston City Council approved a $4.9 Billion budget last night. And the good news: No tax increases.
Mayor Annise Parker says the $4.9 billion dollar budget doesn’t contain the painful spending cuts the city was forced to make in previous budgets. There’s new revenue this time around, about $42 million dollars.
About $22 million of that money is dedicated to raises for city workers. Ten million goes into the rainy day fund.
“We budget both revenues and expenses conservatively and we fully expect revenues to come in above what we have projected. First out of the box, council members voted to not spend that new revenue but to roll it over into next year.”
Among numerous amendments to the 2014 budget — council members voted to raise the property tax exemption for seniors. The new exemption is $80,000. That’s about a $9000 increase from the previous exemption.
Parker says the move will cost the city about $3.8 million.
“We do not anticipate it will be a problem in this budget. It’s not going to have a direct impact in this budget. It will, however, mean that we will have less money going into next fiscal year.”
Parker originally presented the budget without raising that exemption but she says she was willing to make compromises in order to get her budget proposal approved.
The budget proposal seems practical, but once council members have their say, and amendments are added, we’ll see the end result. Here’s what was in my inbox:
Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled a $4.9 billion proposed total city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013. The General Fund, or tax supported portion of the budget, is $2.2 billion. The budget does not require a tax increase and maintains focus on Parker’s five main priorities: jobs and sustainable development, public safety, infrastructure, quality of life and fiscal responsibility.
“This budget proposal builds upon the progress of the last 3.5 years,” said Mayor Parker. “We’ve cut waste, made city departments more efficient and balanced every budget without raising taxes. We have gone from necessary budget cutbacks and staff layoffs to sustainable economic growth. This budget reflects sound and realistic fiscal policies necessary to fund the city services required for supporting that growth, while also allowing for investment in the future of our city. In making those decisions about the city’s future, we will utilize the same strong fiscal management that safely guided us through the economic downturn.”
The budget will complete the restoration of services cut two years ago during the economic downturn. It maintains full funding of the Rainy Day Fund, which was achieved in FY13, and includes funding for increased costs associated with employee pension and health benefits, as well as the pay increases mandated by the contracts with the city’s three employee unions.
Mayor Parker’s Priorities
Jobs and Sustainable Development
- Hire Houston First will continue to play a role as the city strives to keep our tax dollars in Houston and build the local economy. In the program’s first year of existence, more than $139 million of city business was awarded to certified firms, sustaining more than 6,000 jobs.
- With aggressive pro-growth policies, city government has helped attract more than $2.2 billion of economic development since Mayor Parker took office in 2010. Overall, the Houston region has generated 250,000 jobs, exported approximately $300 billion in locally-produced goods and services and issued permits for the construction of nearly 74,000 single-family homes in the last three years. Every economic indicator points to more of the same moving forward.
- Over two-thirds of the General Fund budget is devoted to public safety.
- More than $2.2 million is included in this budget proposal to fund operations of the city’s new public safety radio project, which is improving the city’s capability to communicate with Harris County and surrounding jurisdictions when fighting crime or responding to natural disaster.
- The budget also includes the creation of the Forensic Transition Special Fund to keep separate and account for costs related to the Houston Forensic Science LGC and its ongoing effort to establish an independent crime lab.
- Thanks to voter approval of last fall’s bond referendum, we will continue to make progress on the removal of dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods.
- The elimination of the DNA backlog, an FY13 priority, will be completed this fiscal year.
- For the first time ever, there is a General Fund line item of $2.5 million, representing approximately 2% of the average annual Capital Improvement Plan for Public Improvement Programs for infrastructure maintenance, renewal and replacement. These dollars will be used for upkeep to existing city facilities, such as libraries, community centers, and neighborhood fire stations, to help avoid the deferred maintenance issues identified in the recent facilities assessment.
- Through Rebuild Houston more than $180 million has already been invested in drainage and street improvements. This is just the beginning of this pay-as-you-go comprehensive infrastructure modernization program that will transform our city over time.
- FY2014 will also include additional progress on replacement of city information technology and fleet infrastructure, which has been underfunded for years.
Quality of Life
- The number of Houston households with single-stream recycling will double in FY14 from about 100,000 to more than 200,000. The first phase of the expansion will occur in July when approximately 35,000 households are added to the program. About another 70,000 homes will be added during phase two later in the year. The expansion will impact neighborhoods citywide rather than be limited to one specific area of town.
- To ensure continued progress on improvements made in recent years and to prepare for completion of the new adoption center, the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Control (BARC) will see an increase in funding by approximately $693,683.
- Major progress will be made on the Bayou Greenways initiative that will link parks and trails citywide.
- The budget also includes funding to continue the Mayor’s initiative to solve chronic homelessness.
- As part of an ongoing commitment to financial transparency, work continues to improve management and oversight of taxpayer funds. To this end, $676,000 has been included in the budget for enhanced financial controls and audit capabilities. Most of this funding will go to the city’s finance department, but some is also allocated to the Office of the City Controller.
- The budget also reports several funds that were previously categorized as non-budgeted funds.
The FY2014 – 2018 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which will be proposed shortly, complements the mayor’s proposed budget in its support of growth and investment in the city’s future by focusing on infrastructure and public safety. In FY2012 the city conducted a facilities conditions assessment. This assessment is driving many projects throughout the CIP that address poor facility conditions faced by both citizens and employees, including renovations of Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, fire stations, and many neighborhood libraries.