By unanimous vote and in record time, Houston City Council today approved Mayor Sylvester Turner’s first City budget. In stark contrast to budget discussions of years past that lasted into the wee hours of the next morning, the vote came just before noon today and nearly a month ahead of the normal schedule.
“Passage of this budget sends a strong message to the credit rating agencies about the importance we are placing on City finances,” said Mayor Turner. “This was accomplished not by putting hundreds of hard-working City employees in the unemployment line or by cutting critical services that Houstonians rely on and deserve. Instead, it was done via shared sacrifice and laser fine attention to fiscal management.”
Cost increases, voter imposed revenue limitations, a broken appraisal system and the economic downturn combined to create a $160 million budget shortfall, the worst fiscal challenge the City has faced since before The Great Recession when hundreds of City workers had to be laid off. The mayor’s budget eliminates the shortfall, maintains the City’s healthy savings account and cuts overall spending by $82 million, when compared to the current budget year. Library and park services were maintained and there were no layoffs of police and fire fighters. There is also funding for an additional police cadet class, for a total of five classes, the most in recent memory. For the first time in years, the number of police officers at HPD is starting to inch up.
“Each City department, the employee unions, City Council, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones and various other parties worked together to identify cost savings and efficiencies while also minimizing employee layoffs and maintaining the critical services our residents rely on and deserve,” said Turner. I want to thank everyone for coming to the table to work together.”
Early in the budget process, Mayor Turner asked City Council not to tinker with his budget proposal, warning that even one small change could upset the delicate balance achieved as a result of shared sacrifice and put the City at risk for a credit rating downgrade. In the spirit of working together, council heeded his request, submitting very few amendments, none of which had a budgetary impact. This also contrasts with previous years when there have been dozens of amendments put on the table.
The budget adopted today is for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.
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