Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Pension reform update

Things are happening. Longtime firefighters pension fund chairman Todd Clark has retired from the department and resigned his post, a move City Hall observers interpret as perhaps the clearest sign yet that Mayor Sylvester Turner’s push for pension reform may succeed. The municipal pension also is in upheaval, having bought out former director Rhonda Smith’s […]

Meet the latest education scam

Free money! What could possibly go wrong? An ambitious new player has emerged in the controversial effort to use taxpayer dollars to help Texas parents send their kids to private or religious schools. Texans for Education Opportunity, which launched in May, supports all forms of “school choice,” including charters and traditional public schools, said Executive […]

Looking again for a new justice complex

Got to do something about this sooner or later. Mayor Sylvester Turner has formed a committee to study how to acquire a new police headquarters and courts complex for Houston. Former mayor Annise Parker spent more than two years studying how to replace the city’s aging “justice complex” but ultimately abandoned it without having found […]

No bonds this year

Maybe next year. Mayor Sylvester Turner likely will not ask voters to approve bonds this November to replace the nearly depleted debt residents approved in 2012, a move that may delay several projects. […] Having addressed a $160 million shortfall with the unanimous passage of his first budget last month, Turner said he now is […]

Our tax system isn’t quite as stupid as it could be

Good news! A Texas Supreme Court ruling has spared the state from having to issue billions of dollars in tax refunds to oil and gas drillers — a prospect that had had threatened to shake up the next legislative session. The justices on Friday sided with Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar in an arcane tax dispute […]

Pension progress report

Our favorite subject, back in the news. Mayor Sylvester Turner and the leaders of the city’s three pension boards made clear to a visiting group of state lawmakers on Monday that they agree a fix to the city’s growing pension burden must be found, perhaps by the mayor’s deadline of year’s end. The state House […]

Council unanimously passes Turner’s first budget

Good job. Mayor Sylvester Turner achieved his goal of securing unanimous passage of his first general fund budget Wednesday morning, a month ahead of the typical schedule and after an unusually brief and uncontentious discussion of council members’ proposed changes. The $2.3 billion general fund budget, which pays for most basic city services with revenues […]

Trash subsidy will not be trashed

From the inbox: After weighing the budgetary impact and obtaining input from City Council, Mayor Sylvester Turner has decided not to pursue elimination of subsidies to homeowners associations that opt out of City trash collection services. Under the program, which began in the 1970s, the City pays a monthly $6 per household subsidy to homeowners […]

So far, so good for Mayor Turner

That’s the general consensus of his first four-plus months in office. Faced with a $160 million budget shortfall that would leave some wringing their hands until deadline day, Mayor Sylvester Turner presented his plan a month ahead of schedule. The proposal being reviewed by City Council includes a few one-off gimmicks, by Turner’s own admission, […]

We’re still lousy at funding schools

In case you were wondering. Texas still ranks in the bottom third of states in spending per pupil in the U.S., with essentially no change in either amount or standing, a new study shows. The finding doesn’t help, and could undercut, the state’s position in a long-running school finance case. Figures compiled by the National […]

Mayor Turner delivers State of the City 2016

Here’s the press release. Flooding, pensions, City finances and public safety were front and center as Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered his first State of the City before the Greater Houston Partnership. In a major move designed to produce tangible results and instill confidence among residents, the mayor announced the selection of Stephen Costello to fill […]

Cornyn files bill to speed up floodgate construction process

Credit where credit is due. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn filed legislation Wednesday that he says would expedite the long process of constructing a hurricane protection system for the Texas coast, including the particularly vulnerable Houston region. But while local officials cheered the high-profile support, it’s unclear how much the measure would actually speed anything up. […]

Kill that trash subsidy

Works for me. Mayor Sylvester Turner, working to close a $160 million budget deficit, has proposed scrapping payments that scores of Houston neighborhoods served by private trash haulers receive to help offset the cost of their waste contracts. The idea when the program started in the 1970s was that residents should not have to pay […]

The state is starting to feel the squeeze

Things are tough all over. The state is facing big problems affecting vulnerable populations that will take significant money to fix at the same time that a slump in the energy industry is chipping into its revenues, House Speaker Joe Straus warned Tuesday. “Writing a balanced and disciplined budget that appropriately funds our top priorities […]

Don’t expect Congress to pay for a Gulf Coast floodgate system

I sure don’t. After nearly a decade of bickering and finger pointing, Texas scientists and lawmakers finally seem to agree that building some version of a “coastal spine” — a massive seawall and floodgate system — would best help protect the Houston region from a devastating hurricane. But with a price tag sure to reach […]

First look at how HISD will balance its budget

Seems to be fairly well-received. The Houston school district’s interim superintendent on Thursday rescinded his proposal to reduce funding for gifted students amid concerns from parents and board members. At the same time, Ken Huewitt proposed bolstering the budgets of schools with significant concentrations of low-income students, using $21 million from federal funds. Schools with […]

Two Medicaid stories

From the Trib: State health officials confirmed Tuesday they have asked the Obama administration to keep a 15-month lifeline of federal Medicaid money flowing into Texas to help hospitals treat uninsured patients. That money would offer temporary relief to health care providers who face losing the funds — some $3.1 billion annually — over state leaders’ refusal to provide government-subsidized health coverage […]

Turner announces his budget

From the inbox: 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 […]

Have I mentioned lately that the revenue cap is stupid public policy?

Because it is. Sales taxes are Houston’s second-largest source of revenue for the general fund, which pays for most core services. Just as concerning for city officials, however, was more news about the city’s largest general fund revenue source: property taxes. Mayor Sylvester Turner, as he did in February, criticized what he said is an […]

Mayor Turner releases transition team report

From the inbox, a glimpse of what to expect in the near to medium future from Mayor Turner. Mayor Sylvester Turner has released a 17-page report that details the work of his transition team chaired by businessman and long-time civic advisor David Mincberg. More than 250 Houstonians from all walks of life participated. They have […]

Lawsuits and low oil prices

Both are threatening the next Texas budget. Last week, lawyers for the state of Texas got the latest in a string of bad legal news. A lawsuit challenging the state’s foster care system as inhumane appeared to gain steam when an appeals court rejected the state’s request to stop the appointment of two “special masters” […]

It’s not easy going green

And by “going green” I mean legalizing pot, at least in Texas. Advocacy groups and lawmakers say marijuana policy reform in Texas could be the fiscally responsible thing to do in light of the state’s decreasing oil and gas revenues. Texas legislators should look to marijuana policy reform to save, and even make, money in […]

Doing more to get tax breaks

We’ll see about this. Companies seeking city tax breaks soon could get a boost if they commit to providing additional community benefits – such as workforce housing, paid internships for low-income students or jobs for those who previously were incarcerated – as part of a retooling of Houston’s tax abatement program before City Council on […]

Recycling officially re-upped

That new recycling agreement with Waste Management was on Council’s agenda yesterday. Here’s a reminder of what it was about. Originally, Houston was to ink a four-year deal with Waste Management, paying a $95-per-ton processing fee, a nearly 50 percent price hike. [Mayor] Turner, hoping the market would rebound quickly and strengthen the city’s negotiating […]

We’re not so good at school funding

I know, I’m as shocked as you are. Texas earned the worst marks in the country for its funding of public education, according to a research report released Wednesday. Researchers with Rutgers Graduate School of Education and the New Jersey-based Education Law Center called out the Lone Star State for ranking poorly on all of […]

Prepping for the city budget

Mayor Turner gives a brief preview of what is to come. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Friday that he expects to lay off 40 city employees and eliminate 54 vacant positions as he seeks to close a budget shortfall of as much as $160 million, his first public estimate of the personnel reductions required to balance […]

What kind of ruling might we expect in the school finance case?

KUHF explores the possibilities. Four major scenarios to watch for: The Texas Supreme Court could not rule at all. Instead, it could send the case back to the lower court to see if the latest $2.5 billion dollars to the education budget solves the problem. “And the court could say, you know, we need more […]

Now what for recycling?

Sure hope there’s a plan. Houston’s curbside recycling program is in limbo after Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council rejected a new contract with Waste Management on Wednesday, prompting concern among residents and environmental activists about a potential lapse in service. Such a lapse would come about a year after the city finally expanded its […]

Recycling contract impasse

Uh, oh. The city of Houston’s curbside recycling program could be put on hold after negotiations between Waste Management and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office reached an apparent impasse over a new contract Tuesday. Though Turner said he remains committed to recycling and his office said he will be “pursuing any and all available options” before […]

The Supreme Court hears that case about how stupid our tax system is

There’s a lot of money riding on the outcome. With billions of dollars at stake, the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a tax showdown whose outcome could shake up the next legislative session while straining the historically friendly relationship between state lawmakers and the iconic oil and gas sector. Throughout a spirited debate […]

Supreme Court to decide just how stupid our tax system is

Oh, goody. The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case that could deliver a multi-billion windfall to struggling oil and gas producers by taking a major bite out of state tax revenue. The issue before the justices may sound arcane: Are metal pipes, tubing and other equipment used in oil and […]

HISD girds for budget cuts

Welcome to the job, Ken Huewitt. Isn’t this fun? Houston’s deputy superintendent on Thursday presented the school board with the deepest round of proposed budget cuts since 2011, leaving principals to decide between slashing staff, supplies, field trips or other activities. Ken Huewitt, who transitions to interim superintendent next week, called for teachers’ jobs to […]

RIP, One Bin For All

It had a good run, but at the very least the timing was all wrong. The One Bin For All program would let Houstonians throw all trash in the same bin, to be separated for recycling later. The hope was to push up Houston’s low recycling rate. But now the city could end up with […]

Layoffs are coming

It’s gonna suck, though hopefully not as hard as last time. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that a still undetermined number of city employees will be laid off in the coming months, making his first formal acknowledgment that Houston’s projected $126 million budget gap can’t be closed by July without personnel reductions. Though Turner did […]