City's budget crunch leads to higher greens fees

June 16, 2010 4:02:21 PM PDT
Houston city leaders spent Wednesday talking about the bottom line. With the city now millions of dollars in debt, we're starting to hear a lot of new ideas to help trim the budget without raising your taxes. The suggestions ranged from the typical to the unusual. The city is trying to balance its budget by the end of the month for the new fiscal year. You've of course heard about the increase in water rates that's already been passed. Now Houston City Council Members are offering up their own suggestions for balancing the budget and some are definitely more creative than others.

If you're teeing off at any of Houston's golf courses, get ready to pay more. The city council raised greens fees across the board by $2 to $5 per round. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says it's simple economics.

"The golf courses are a specialty park service, and the belief has been for a very long time that golf courses need to be self-supporting," said Mayor Parker.

The city's Brock Park Golf Course has always lost money, and now the course staying open. But with the budget crunch, some council members are looking for drastic cuts.

"I took that serious and have taken the responsibility upon myself to make some serious budget recommendations," said Council Member Mike Sullivan.

He made the biggest splash at City Hall. Among his 39 amendments was to limit the SafeClear program to only weekdays and at peak traffic hours. He also wants to slash the mayor's office budget by 6 percent.

"If he's telling me I have to take 6 percent off my immediate office staff that answers the phone in the office, it means I have to lay somebody off," Mayor Parker said.

Like true politicians, Houston's police and fire departments were not the main targets of big cuts. So others are looking for more creative solutions. For example, all city employees who speak a second language are eligible for extra pay. Council Member Anne Clutterbuck says that's outdated and wastes money.

"I would argue that the ability to speak another language, if that is necessary for the job, that is just another job requirement," said Clutterbuck.

In reality, a lot of these amendments will probably die on the floor before it goes any further. We expect council members to hash it out in the next week or two before finally passing a budget.


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