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Posts Tagged ‘deficit’

State of the City 2012

It’s getting better. Saying Houston has “rounded the corner” on the recession, Mayor Annise Parker on Thursday credited City Hall with providing incentives that businesses used to create or retain 13,000 jobs and invest $1 billion locally during the tough economic times of her first term. Parker also told the sold-out crowd for her third […]

The Sheriff’s office is hiring

Good. Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says by balancing his department’s $392 million budget, he’ll be able to transfer 100 deputies from jail duties to crime-fighting jobs in the next year while hiring hundreds of new civilian jailers. During a news conference Monday, Garcia said when he took office in January 2009 the department was […]

Electing educators

This sounds good, but there are a couple of things missing. More than a dozen Republicans and Democrats who have sat on school boards are running for the Texas House this year, and a backlash over spending cuts and standardized testing might help them get there. Legislators sliced per-student spending last year, prompting schools to […]

Early Childhood Intervention

When we say that the budget was balanced on the backs of children and the poor, this is the sort of thing we’re talking about. Lawmakers last year slashed funding for the statewide [Early Childhood Intervention] program by 14 percent. The reductions come at a time when demand for services is increasing and children’s needs […]

Texas high school graduation rate improved over the last decade

According to one report, anyway. Texas’ graduation rate for high school students increased 1.9 percent since 2002 to just below the national average, according to a new report by a coalition of education groups. The report found that high school graduation rates rose from 73.5 percent to 75.4 percent between 2002 and 2009, and pulled […]

Just keep cutting till we tell you to stop

I have two things to say about this. Looking to get an early start on shaping budget discussions for the 2013 legislative session, the Texans for a Conservative Budget Coalition recommended Tuesday that lawmakers plan to reduce welfare spending, increase local control for public school districts, and consolidate or eliminate general revenue spending for several […]

More cuts, fewer teachers

We knew this was what had happened, and now we have the numbers. New data from the Texas Education Agency illustrate what school officials have decried for months: Their staffs are stretched thin following the unprecedented state budget cuts that took effect this school year. Statewide, districts eliminated roughly 25,000 positions, including more than 10,700 […]

Solving car crimes with DNA

This story is basically a commercial for Harris County’s crime lab – Did you know that since they have no testing backlog on personal crime cases they can focus on property crimes? It’s true! – but it’s still pretty cool. For the last few years, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences aided area law […]

It’s not so easy being green

For cities, anyway, at this time. College Station, the maroon-hued home of Texas A&M University, is finding it is not easy being green. Four years after launching an ambitious local effort to fight global warming, city leaders say their high hopes have fallen to hard economic realities, forcing them to abandon their green-at-all-costs approach. The […]

If you can’t specify it, it’s not wasteful

After reading this op-ed by Todd Clark, the chair of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (that is, their pension fund), I have decided to adopt two rules for all future discussion of the city’s budget. Let me speak briefly about the city’s Long Range Financial Management Task Force. This advisory committee could have […]

Better budget news

For the city. The city of Houston may have $21 million more in income in the coming fiscal year than it had planned on before Wednesday. That’s when it got the news that the Harris County Appraisal District projects that taxable values in the city — and by extension, the amount of taxes it collects […]

Making a profit coming and going

I don’t comment very often on the business world, but I thought this Loren Steffy column from Friday about the El Paso/Kinder Morgan deal was noteworthy. Chancellor Leo Strine questioned the role of Goldman Sachs, which advised both El Paso and Kinder Morgan in various aspects of the $21.1 billion deal. Goldman handled Kinder Morgan’s […]

Pediatric dental care

It’s more important than you might think. While overall oral health care for adults and children has improved, tooth decay continues to be the most common chronic disease among children. It can have serious social and health consequences when untreated and, in rare cases, can be fatal. “The children with the highest need are the […]

Perry’s empty promise on the Women’s Health Program

Our Governor talks big, but his words have no meaning. The state will find the cash to continue a women’s health program whose federal funding is threatened because of a decision to keep Planned Parenthood from participating, Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday. “We’re going to fund this program,” Perry said. “Listen, we’ll find the money. […]

Still more dedicated funds not being dedicated

I keep wondering when we’re going to discover the last dedicated fund that is not being used for its original purpose but for general revenue. All I know is that we keep finding more of them, in this case fees collected from defendants in the criminal courts. While courts assess fines to punish defendants, in […]

A place to start

At least one elected Republican is feeling a bit angsty about the Republican war on women’s health. For some GOP lawmakers, the issue gets deeply personal, and the line between party loyalty, allegiance to anti-abortion politics and public health is a tough balancing act. State Rep. Sarah Davis, a first-term Republican lawmaker from Houston, said […]

More frontiers in school bus advertising

This had not occurred to me. The rooftop of a suburban high school is not a location that companies usually consider prime advertising real estate. But in Humble Independent School District, it may be. The district’s high school is directly in a flight path for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. Although the rooftop plan has yet […]

Maybe we need more tickets

Grits reads a story about the decline of traffic tickets in Dallas and does some figuring. What’s remarkable is not just this year’s drop but the overall 39% decline since ’06-’07. Wondering if the same trend is occurring statewide, Grits pulled the total number of new, non-parking traffic cases filed in municipal courts in recent […]

We have a long history of screwing public schools in this state

I’ve been meaning to post about this Texas Observer story about the current status of school finance, the litigation challenging it, and the story of how we got here. Here’s a little local angle to illustrate one of the many ways in which the system is messed up. Even one of the state’s most efficient […]

It’s all about Helena

Apparently, we have been living in Helena Brown’s world all this time. District A Councilwoman Helena Brown has voted against spending money on the renovation of a women’s shelter, a street’s reconstruction, the purchase of a police boat, payment to caregivers for the chronically ill, a study on people at risk for HIV infection, gas […]

How you can help support policies and funding for public schools

From the inbox, sent by Sue Dimenn Deigaard: Over the past week I have heard several legislators make the misleading claim that they increased funding for public education this past session.  As a parent with a child that is in a classroom with 29 other students this year, and as a parent that regularly attends […]

More on uniform start times and other options HISD is considering

As we know, HISD is contemplating uniform start times as a way to save a few bucks for the next fiscal year. They do have some other ideas going, as well as a possible property tax rate hike, and they would like some input from you. From the inbox, from HISD Trustee Paula Harris: Implementing […]

HISD to contemplate uniform start times again

They’re back. Bleary-eyed teenagers in Houston ISD could sleep later, but not everyone is cheering a budget-cutting proposal that would change school hours and bus schedules next year. The school board last year rejected a plan to tinker with the times after parents complained. But with the Houston Independent School District facing another multimillion-dollar deficit, […]

School finance lawsuit #5

The plaintiffs keep on coming. A lawsuit by a small group of parents claims Texas is not getting enough bang for its educational buck, and asks the state’s courts to address inefficiencies in how education funding is spent. Attorneys plan to file their litigation Friday in Austin on behalf of five families who say Texas […]

Property tax revenues still a year away

Getting better, but not quite there yet. Local governments should not expect an influx of property taxes to solve their budget woes this year, Harris County Appraisal District officials said Tuesday. Assistant Chief Appraiser Guy Griscom estimated the countywide tax base, based on a Jan. 1 snapshot that will be finalized this summer, will see […]

No, there won’t be a special session to help the public schools

Someone managed to catch Rick Perry during the few minutes he was in the office this week to ask about about having a special session to appropriate some of the extra Rainy Day funds to mitigate the cuts to public education. His answer was exactly what you’d expect. Perry said Tuesday that Texas is spending […]

Let’s party like it’s 2007!

Good news: The improving economy and steadily increasing sales tax receipts may mean that we won’t have another budget apocalypse in 2013. Bad news: The Republicans in the Lege will use this as an excuse to avoid fixing the state’s underlying revenue problems. The state’s rebounding economy should help Texas avoid another draconian budget session […]

It’s always easier to talk in the abstract

I have three things to say about this. The city of Houston has been papering over multimillion-dollar budget deficits for nine years by borrowing money, tapping its rainy day fund, selling buildings and just plain putting off bills to the future, according to city finance officials. [...] This year, Mayor Annise Parker has pledged not […]

Parker to sue pension boards for more information

It’s pensions all the time around here. Mayor Annise Parker said Thursday that her administration is gearing up to sue the city’s pension systems to open their books and preparing a “road show” of pension reforms she will present throughout the area with the idea of getting state legislation to achieve them. The city wants […]

Calling for a special session

It started with the Texas State Teachers Association. The Texas State Teachers Association today urged Gov. Rick Perry to call the Legislature into special session now to appropriate $2.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and head off another round of harmful cuts in local public school budgets for the 2012-2013 school year. “It is […]

Two views of pensions

The Chron’s Sunday op-ed pages were filled with pension-related discussion. Here are the citizen members of the Long-Range Financial Management Task Force, fresh off of their report release, taking to the pages to lay out what the city wants from the Lege on pension issues. The Texas Legislature must change the current law that gives […]

The Long-Range Financial Management Task Force report is out

A little light reading for your Sunday. The report generated criticism before the figurative ink was dry on it. Union leaders criticized the report before it was even delivered to the mayor, with Houston Organization of Public Employees President Melvin Hughes declaring the report an attack on employees. “It’s not about balancing the budget,” Hughes […]

Another item for the city’s legislative wish list

Loren Steffy brings up a familiar issue that has added salience now as the city tries to deal with its long term finances. Across the city, prime office buildings are selling for far more than their tax values, leaving billions in potential tax revenue on the table at a time when city and county budgets […]

As always, the hole is bigger than we thought

Remember how the Republicans in the Lege underfunded Medicaid by $4.5 billion, which they will have to tap the Rainy Day Fund in 2013 to deal with, in order to make the budget for this biennium appear to be “balanced”? Turns out we’re going to need a lot more than that. Kudos to the Quorum […]