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Harris County passes its budget

It’s about what you’d expect.

Facing an 11.3 percent drop in revenue, Harris County Commissioners Court passed a budget today that could mean dozens of law enforcement jobs cut or left vacant, hundreds fewer patients receiving mental health counseling and fewer books in county libraries.

The $1.23 billion budget reflects a revenue drop of $156.8 million from last year as property taxes, the main source of revenue for the county, have fallen in the wake of the recession that has eroded property values. Spending in the fiscal year that ended Feb. 28 was $1.35 billion.

The budget passed unanimously, with little comment from the court.

Only County Attorney Vince Ryan and Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman spoke about the need to protect their revenues before the vote.

Ryan said his office now is representing the county in almost 600 cases, with more than $50 million at stake. His staffers, he said, work for an average hourly rate a fourth or less what outside counsel would cost.

“Further reductions in our staff will impair our ability to serve you and the people of Harris County,” Ryan said.

[…]

“I think it’s going to be a very interesting 12 months,” [County Judge Ed] Emmett said. “We’re going to have to get a handle on the new reality and the new reality is we’re not going to have this ever-increasing revenue stream. I personally would like to start next year’s budget process tomorrow.”

I just wonder when we’ll reach the point where we say we can’t cut any more without affecting the things we really need to do. I’m sure the next 12 months will include a lot of debate about just what it is we do need to do. I certainly agree it will be an interesting year, but I have many concerns about the way that discussion is going to go.

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3 Comments

  1. Ohio River Liberal says:

    It is disturbing how little debate there is over matters as important as the county budget. This fact is another example of the lack of a proper civic infrastructure in our community. Where is any advocacy group at all to go before our county officials, and say we are not applying the resources needed to serve the needs of Harris County?

  2. […] shortchanging counties – cutting reimbursements, raiding funds, and the like. Having already decimated its own budget, Harris County is preparing for further indignities. “When you go to the Legislature you […]

  3. […] with large cuts for the most vulnerable¬†and in many other essential services in the Harris County budget just recently approved, where has been Mr. Emmett’s own call for increased revenues to meet the legitimate needs of […]

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