Houston mayor proposes $6.2B city budget, boosting pay and spending

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- At $6.2 billion, Houston's proposed budget for the next fiscal year is just slightly smaller than the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of Haiti and four times that of Belize.

This year's proposal, announced Tuesday by Mayor Sylvester Turner, increases spending by $120 million.

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Turner's proposal will increase pay for police, fire, and municipal employees. It bumps up the spending for the city's maintenance fund and adds an additional cushion for the city's savings account at one of the highest levels in years.

But the proposal weighs heavily on COVID-19 relief funds, pushing how to pay for salaries and services onto the next mayor when Turner is term-limited at the end of this year.

This budget relies on $160 million from COVID funds - an issue highlighted often by City Controller Chris Brown.

"As Council considers a new budget, we must prepare for robust revenue streams to normalize as federal stimulus dwindles," Brown said.

Accountants will tell you there are typically two ways to balance a budget: cut spending or raise revenues. In past years, Turner, along with previous mayors, have found creative ways: federal funds, one-time land sales, or pulling from the city's savings account. This proposal doesn't rely on those methods, a positive step in the right direction, despite the use of COVID funds, Brown said.

In his message to the council, Turner correctly points out the difficulty in raising revenue and taxes in Houston. A strict "revenue cap" exists, limiting how much the city can charge in property tax, and limiting spending increases by proxy.

The city council will spend the next several weeks debating the budget, along with dozens of proposed amendments.