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Turner announces his budget

From the inbox:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Utilizing a shared sacrifice approach, Mayor Sylvester Turner today unveiled a proposed Fiscal Year 2017 General Fund budget that eliminates a projected $160 million shortfall that was the result of cost increases, voter imposed revenue limitations, a broken appraisal system and the economic downturn. The budget totals $2.3 billion, which is about $82 million less in spending than the current FY2016 appropriation. The decrease was accomplished while still meeting $60 million of contractual and mandated cost increases the City is forced to cover in FY2017. The mayor is unveiling his preliminary budget plan more than a month ahead of the normal schedule and has requested accelerated City Council approval in an effort to send a positive message regarding City budget management.

“This was the largest fiscal challenge the City has faced since before the Great Recession,” said Mayor Turner. “By bringing all parties to the table to engage in shared sacrifice, we have closed the budget gap and started addressing the long-standing structural imbalance between available revenues and spending. Each City department, the employee unions, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, City Council and various other parties have worked together to identify cost savings and efficiencies while preserving a healthy fund balance, minimizing employee layoffs and maintaining the City services our residents rely on and deserve.”

Due to an arrangement negotiated by the mayor, the City’s tax increment reinvestment zones will send $19.6 million back to the City to help cover increased operating costs citywide. The rest of the budget gap was closed utilizing a combination of savings from debt restructuring, spending reductions, revenue from anticipated land sales and a small contribution from the City’s fund balance. Even with this fund balance contribution, the City’s savings account will remain well above the threshold necessary to satisfy the credit rating agencies.

The budget includes the elimination of 54 vacant positions and 30 to 40 layoffs, most of which the mayor hopes to accomplish through attrition. There are no significant reductions to park and library operations, which have been hit hard in the past and there will be no layoffs of police officers or fire fighters. There is funding included for an additional police cadet class, for a total of five classes and the mayor continues to look for ways to streamline operations to get more officers back on the street.

The budget was balanced using both recurring and non-recurring initiatives. If non-recurring items had been taken off the table, there would have been drastic cuts in City services and another 1,235 City employees would have lost their jobs.

The recurring initiatives mark the start of institutionalizing a new way of running City government. The elimination of redundancies and increased efficiency in operations has generated $36.2 million in recurring annual savings. In addition, the TIRZs will continue to contribute at least $19.6 million in subsequent years. Yet to come is a new approach for the City’s pension liabilities. Productive discussions are underway with stakeholders and I am committed to having an agreement ready to take to the legislature by the end of this year.

“I strongly urge City Council to resist the urge to tinker with this budget,” said Turner. “Even one small change will upset the delicate balance we’ve achieved as a result of shared sacrifice and put the City at risk for a credit rating downgrade. This plan prepares us for the additional fiscal challenges anticipated in FY18 while also improving public safety, increasing employment opportunities and meeting the critical needs of the less fortunate in our city.”

City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget May 25, 2016, nearly a month ahead of last year. The new fiscal year begins July 1, 2016.

Details are here, and the Chron story on the budget is here. I confess, I’ve only scanned the details so far – sorry, but it was a long week, and it’s been a busy weekend. I am sure there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss the details between now and May 25. Have a look for yourself and feel free to tell us what you think.

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16 Comments

  1. Joshua ben bullard says:

    Turner has two long term best friends on the city payroll one is Keith wade over 100,000$ a year and the other is William Paul Thomas ,over 100,000$ a year ,these two are carry over from parker and William worked for Rodney Ellis,no turner knows he should have replaced these two fine city Insiders with two college grads by now ,or maybe not , sadly there are soooo many city Insiders at Houston city hall its costing tax payers milliobs in additional pensions ,never mind the millions in pay -council member david Robinson pays his city insider Karen over 100,000$ a year plus lucrative bonuses and not to mention the international trade missions they accompany the council.members on ,is it just me or is mayor turner cm Amanda k Edwards and mike Knox and greegtravis supposed to hire from our colleges and universitys??this is will.not go away until all city insiders from years prior are replaced with new opportunity at city hall ,I am the only one minding the store,looks like .PS Amanda k Edwards hired two former rebuild Houston advisors that came from Stephen Costello’s office ,Amanda even has Stephens former deputy cos running her entire office ,Amanda Edwards should be professionally embarrassed for this nonsense and unfair hiring practices.

  2. Steve Houston says:

    Broken English and self delusions aside, the idea behind retaining experienced employees is the same as in the private sector. Suggesting those who have devoted their lives to public service should be replaced simply to save a few bucks on pension costs is EXACTLY why Congress passed federal legislation for the private sector back in the mid 1980’s, some large companies still finding any excuse they can to terminate employment of seasoned employees to cut costs and hire some clueless college graduate with no experience that can be more easily manipulated by someone like you Josh.

    Turner was elected to office and you were not so really, it’s his call as to who to keep and who to demote, ditch, or otherwise remove from policy making positions. I suspect there might be one or two that you don’t like, perhaps tied to keeping the city’s taxi regulations intact, but if they report to various council members or what have you, they are beholden to their chains of command and subject to removal if they don’t follow city policy, not the whims of an outsider with an axe to grind.

  3. There are how many lawyers on city council?
    Two of which are harvard law graduates.

    I understand there are moving parts and it’s politics.

    But i haven’t seen anything that warrants my attention.

    So far no mention of:

    Paid FMLA for city employees
    Public Bank
    Repeal Revenue Cap
    TIRZ Reform
    Paid sick leave ordinance
    Ban the box ordinance
    HERO without public accomadation text
    Equal Pay ordinance

    Seems like business as usual.

    Amanda Edwards seems to regurgitating the bubble gum talking points like puppies and potholes.
    I was not impressed with her KPRC interview.

    At least Chris Brown talked facts on his KPRC interview.

    I was kinda hoping Jerry Davis would advocate for ordinances, but he could be another desk-lamp democrat like Boykins.

  4. Bravo Steve Houston! 100 days into a term and the wannabes and the Houston Chronicle seem to think everything can turn on a dime. Doesn’t work like that – and thankfully so. Let’s give some folks a chance and if things go south, then make an informed critique. Until then, sit on it. Thank you Steve.

  5. Paul Kubosh says:

    Bravo Steve? When is the last time you had a Bravo?

  6. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, you might have missed the part where TIRZ’s are in the process of being reformed, not least of which is their stated agreement to chip in another ~$20 million for core city services each year, more to follow. Aside from a couple of city council that have served on TIRZ boards and a few new staffers that have significant expertise in the field advising Mayor Turner, there is a lot more going on. And yet again, NO ONE is talking about adding more benefits for workers at the moment, the likelihood that additional employee concessions are to be made a virtual certainty.

    PK and Carl, Thanks! Frankly, Turner would have done well to appoint Paul to the team looking at reforming the municipal courts and the public safety team but despite catcalls from a wide variety of folks, the guy has wasted no time actually trying to DO something to better the city. He’s not trying to make everyone happy but he’s already shown some common fricking sense that his predecessors did not when it comes to listening to people so I have no problem saying that he’s doing better than many hoped for. And as the political equivalent of the “mean old man” from Saturday Night Live played by Dana Carvey, one who finds fault regardless of political affiliation, that’s darned high praise. 😉

  7. $20 million that’s it?

    TIRZ need to be shut down indefinitely.

    they serve no purpose and provide no benefit.

    Carl, I made my decision in less than a week after looking at council members “platforms” on their websites.
    Nothing more than desk-lamp democrats and log cabin republicans at city hall and county court.

  8. Jules says:

    Is the TIRZ transfer legal?

  9. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, keep in mind that the whole idea behind “the increment” in TIRZ’s is to use the extra value they generate for specific projects, city leaders now using the program to avoid the tax cap. Personally, I don’t like much about them and I’ve had extended conversations with board members and city council members about them but at the moment, they generate something like $165 million a year, most of that dedicated to their purpose. Every penny redirected means some of the debt they issue will take longer to pay off or scale back projects but if they were eliminated, the extra money would be off the table courtesy of the revenue cap. Like it or not, most people are not in favor of removing that cap.

    And complain as you will regarding those elected to serve in office because they don’t live up to your expectations or refuse to throw more money at items the bulk of the population would never agree to if asked, the voters made their picks and will have to live with them. You found out that the interest in people like yourself was very limited so get over it already.

    Jules, they appear to be legal per the experts advising the mayor but a longer term solution would suit me better.

  10. Steve,

    I know how TIRZ works.

    I’m aware of peoples perception of the revenue cap, but most voters are ignorant to facts whether it’s their fault or not.

    City council doesn’t understand basic public finance or they use the revenue cap for political gain.

    They should at least let voters vote on it, no other US or international city has one.

    Furthermore, Texas has had constitutional appraisal and spending caps in place for state and cities for decades.

    I’m aware of how the political process works, why is city hall and county court asking me directly or indirectly to join them?

    That’s why I’m running for state representative.

    It’s no longer about money, power or job titles.

  11. Steve Houston says:

    Joe, co-opting vocal critics is a common tactic as I’m sure you know.
    As far as the Texas Constitution’s “spending caps” for cities, it is so vague that you won’t get much traction there. But once the city revenue cap was voted for by the citizens of the area, I asked a few of the biggest drivers of the measure, all of whom lived in the county and outside the city limits, when they were going to do likewise for the county as they had promised. None of them had any intention of doing so of course, it was all talk, just like when they pushed term limits on the city but never included it for county or state offices.

    But most voters have no idea of any of the specifics and city council is largely comprised of people with VERY limited experience with requisite topics, the “learn as you go” dynamic benefiting the developers and big money people of the area a great deal. Any time one is asked about an area they clearly have no clue about, they respond with platitudes or comments like “I don’t need to know about the specifics, that is why the city hires the expertise needed” or the old management school adage, “I don’t need to be a world class chef to know if I liked the dinner I was served”.

  12. if it takes unemployed gringos to get multi-million dollar companies to improve employee benefits and city council to pass laws that benefit city residents.

    We’ve got bigger problems.

  13. Steve Houston says:

    No Joe, city council passes ordinances that benefit city residents all the time. Your point of contention is that they don’t pass city ordinances that you happen to champion. Even on the odd chance that you won an elected office of some sort, without a great many more like minded folks in office, you aren’t going to get those changes you want. I’m not saying every single one of them is complete fantasy but frankly, anything that costs employers more money or increases costs for governmental bodies is pretty much off the table. The mayor is depending on employee concessions to balance future budgets and scare tactics have not worked very well of late in changing the attitudes of the public to spend more outside of very narrow interests but by all means good luck to you as you chase those windmills.

  14. Most voters are ignorant, that’s the problem.

  15. Steve Houston says:

    Joe: “Most voters are ignorant, that’s the problem.”

    Joe, we’re ALL ignorant of a great many things. Suggesting you are morally superior to others because you have developed a level of expertise in a narrow field is the kind of thinking that alienates others from caring what you say, the so called “Ivory Tower effect” documented throughout history.