News from May 2019
This week, council considered an agenda item to spend $650,000 on Phase I of an effort to improve census responses in the city of Houston. While the federal government already conducts the census, the city’s goal is to encourage more people to respond to the count and ensure that no one is left uncounted, this would allow the city to receive more federal funding than they otherwise would have. The item was tagged, meaning the vote was delayed until next week.
Mayor Sylvester Turner today announced the details of his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 which starts on July 1. If approved by Houston City Council, the 2020 budget for all funds would be $5.10 billion, 3.1 percent or $151 million, higher than 2019’s budget. Overall General Fund spending is up marginally by 2.5 percent, $2.156 billion for 2020 as opposed to 2019’s $2.104. Public safety, which has drawn a lot of interest as of late, is up by 3.57 percent, primarily due to increases of $24 million in the Fire Department and $27 million in the Police Department.
The City of Houston’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget has been released and council is gearing up to start its budget workshops tomorrow. General Fund spending in the new budget is up by 2.5 percent from $2.104 billion in 2019 to $2.15 billion in 2020. Public safety is seeing a spending increase of 3.57 percent because of increases to the Fire Department ($24 million) and the Police Department ($27 million).
Two bills in the Texas legislature drew strong opposition from Mayor Turner who argued the city would lose at least $17 million in tax revenue if one of them became law. Unfortunately for the administration, the Senate version passed in the midst of the fiscal year 2020 budget cycle, but some say it’s fortunate for consumers.
This CityLab article implying that the Houston Metro area is reaching a size (7m) where it is in significant danger of tipping into much lower or even negative growth like NYC, LA, and Chicago (see the graphs). Rice University’s Kinder Institute argues we’re already there with recent slower growth compared to Dallas, but I think that may be more a matter of temporary factors like the most recent oil crash and Hurricane Harvey.
In a surprise turn, Mayor Sylvester Turner paused council to read a newly-released ruling declaring Proposition B, the fire fighter pay parity measure, unconstitutional as it violates state law. “The court is of the opinion the Houston Police Officer’s Union Motion is granted; The City of Houston’s Motion is granted; and The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 341’s Motion is Denied.”
The Tanglewood Homes Association (THA) is suing the neighborhood’s corporation in an effort “to enforce the restrictive covenants for Tanglewood.” The association argues that WMJK, the corporation overseeing the neighborhood, is planning to “cut down Tanglewood’s oldest trees at the neighborhood’s entrance to build a 20-story tower.” The plaintiffs argue that it will “destroy its residential character” and throw a shadow over “the most beautiful part of the neighborhood.”
An interesting conversation with the potential to stall the city’s budget approval process has been rumbling around city council: does city council actually have to pass a budget?According to Houston Controller Chris Brown and Houston Finance Director Tantri Emo, the answer is “no.”
Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered his fourth State of the City address this week, discussing everything from the 2020 budget and fire fighter pay parity, to complete communities and the opening of a new Astroworld-like themed park in collaboration with rapper and Houston-native, Travis Scott.