'We just made history': City of Houston passes Mayor Turner's final budget, totaling $6.2B

Chaz Miller Image
Thursday, June 8, 2023
Sylvester Turner's final budget as Houston mayor OK'd by city council
The City of Houston approved its $6.2 billion budget, which includes funding for drainage programs and a change in policy on open ditch maintenance.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The City of Houston's $6.2 billion budget for the fiscal year 2024 has been approved following hours of discussion at city council Monday morning.

The final vote was 15-2, with Michael Kubosh and Mike Knox being the only council members who voted against Mayor Sylvester Turner's final budget.

One of Wednesday morning's accepted amendments to the originally-proposed budget led to cheers among a group watching the proceedings from the spectator area in the council chambers.

The Northeast Action Collective has been fighting for better drainage in their neighborhood for years, and they said that amendment from Councilwoman Tarsha Jackson served as a victory in their efforts.

What it did was add $20 million to the city's local drainage program, which means more resources for cleaning and maintaining ditches in the City of Houston.

SEE ALSO: Houston could be forced to make big cuts if spending vs. revenue problem unsolved

It also sparked a major change in the way the city operates as it relates to open ditches.

Its current policy mandates property owners are responsible for maintaining their own ditches. However, the city will now be responsible for maintaining them once an ordinance is drafted and approved in the coming weeks.

The mayor said 75% of neighborhoods with open ditches are in communities of color.

"These homeowners already are heavily burdened," Turner said on the current policy requiring owners to maintain their own ditches. "If they don't maintain them, it impacts drainage and the flow of water."

The Northeast Action Collective cheered out loud when Jackson's amendment was accepted.

"You see my voice cracking a little bit because I'm just excited," Doris Brown said. "We just made history, really."

Turner repeatedly said the budget that passed Wednesday was the best one in his eight years as mayor.

He praised his administration for cutting the city's debt down, dealing with pensions and other post-employment benefits, giving raises to firefighters, and funding more cadet classes for the Houston Police Department.

He said he's left the city's finances in better shape than he found them when he took office in 2015.

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

One elected official wasn't so complimentary of the city's overall financial position, though.

Controller Chris Brown wrote in a Houston Chronicle op-ed that the city has repeatedly balanced its budget by using non-recurring fund sources such as the selling of land or federal COVID-19 relief dollars that will eventually run out.

He also wrote that sales-tax receipts are propped up by stimulus dollars and will eventually taper off.

Brown said the city faces "a financial cliff" should expenses keep outpacing revenues.

"The controller has not been right on his projections one single time in eight years," Turner said. "If you just want to get negative information, fine. But I think the facts speak for themselves."

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