Houston mayor addressed concerns about city's budget and COVID-19 relief funds

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has been back at city council the last two days following last week's trade trip to Mexico.

While he was out, Houston's City Controller Chris Brown spoke about the city's budget before the council, and his outlook wasn't optimistic.

"I'm going to distill this into layman's terms," Brown said on March 30. "Essentially, what we have been doing is paying our mortgage by selling our furniture and putting half of our mortgage on credit cards."

Brown used that analogy to explain to the council that the city of Houston's budget is balanced but not structurally balanced. That means the city is using nonrecurring funding, such as federal COVID-19 relief money, to keep the budget balanced.

"Had we not gotten this federal money, we would have had to lay off over 2,000 employees," explained Brown. "Now, the problem is, we've increased our expenditures. Once that money runs out, we might have to lay off 3,000 employees."

But Turner said this financial forecast isn't accurate.

"None of those doom-and-gloom forecasts have been true over the last six years," said Turner. "We have effectively managed our city's (financial) resources."

Turner said his administration has left Houston in better financial terms than when he took office in 2016. He cited, among other things, their work on pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) as reasons why that's the case.

"The sky is not falling," he said. "This cruise ship is steady as she goes."

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