Third Year Mayor Proposes No Tax Increase
Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled a $4.54 billion dollar proposed total City budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2012. The General Fund, or tax supported portion of the budget, is $2.08 Billion. Once again, the mayor’s budget proposal does not include a property tax increase and it maintains focus on her administration’s five priorities: jobs and sustainable development, public safety, infrastructure, quality of life and fiscal responsibility. And, as a reflection of the improved local economy, the budget does not include service cuts or layoffs in city departments.
“Due to prudent fiscal management of the city during the past two budget cycles, we have sufficient funding to continue delivering on my administration’s five priorities,” said Mayor Parker. “Houston’s economy is doing much better than it was a year ago. Our job growth continues to be the envy of the rest of the nation, property values are improving and consumer spending is on the rise. Challenges remain, but we will continue to meet them head on, making the right decisions even when they are tough.”
The mayor’s balanced budget plan maintains the existing property tax rate of 63.875 cents per $100 of taxable value and does not include any new fees nor rely on any major land sales. Also, for the third year in a row, it does not include the use of Pension Obligation Bonds or the issuance of any other long-term debt to meet current expenses. In general, it is a flat budget with funding levels for all departments at essentially the same levels as last year – with the exception of contractual increases for pensions and increases in health benefits, fuel, electricity and information technology costs.
Mayor Parker’s Priorities
Jobs and Sustainable Development
Continued support for economic growth and job creation through business friendly policies and practices like Hire Houston First, which now includes 250 registered Houston firms.
Since Mayor Parker’s administration began in 2010, the City of Houston has directly incentivized more than $1 billion of economic development and created or saved more than 13,000 jobs.
Due to several projects currently in the discussion phase, this number is expected to increase in FY2013.
Over two-thirds of the General Fund budget is devoted to public safety.
The budget includes $5 million in anticipated funding for the proposed independent Houston Forensics Science Center. City Council will be asked in June to appoint board members and formally create the Local Government Corporation (LGC) that will oversee administration and operation of this new facility. These steps and the funding provided in the budget are in keeping with the mayor’s promise to have an independent crime lab in operation by the end of her second term in office.
There is also $2 million in funding for the new Sobering Center. This will free up jail space for more serious offenders and streamline and reduce processing time. Police officers will be able to return to patrol faster to help increase public safety in our neighborhoods. Eventually, it will also generate cost savings.
This will be second year of Rebuild Houston. This new program is transforming the way the city does long-term planning for infrastructure improvements, allowing for planning ten years down the road instead of just five. For the first time there is a comprehensive analysis of the condition of every mile of city streets, a watershed level drainage assessment and a plan to address them in a systematic, worst-comes-first, pay-as-you-go manner. Almost 30 new projects for street and drainage improvements valued at approximately $250 million are planned for this year.
Quality of Life
Unlike FY2012, this budget does not include cuts in swimming pool and library hours, health clinic services. Saturday library hours will continue.
The city continues to replant trees lost to the drought of 2011.
Another expansion of single stream recycling is planned.
Attention will be focused on strengthening neighborhoods, cultivating cultural activities and civic celebrations and maintaining the amenities that make Houston a destination for visitors, a magnet for new residents and the best city in America in which to live, work and raise a family.
As part of the mayor’s commitment to financial transparency, the mayor’s office budget now more accurately reflects the employees who work directly for her, ending the practice of previous administrations of placing the salaries of mayor’s office employees in the budgets of other departments.
This budget also furthers transparency for the Mobility Response Team and burglar alarm and false alarm activities by showing these revenues and expenditures in the General Fund rather than the Police Special Services Fund.
A focus on greater efficiency has led to the consolidation of human resource management, information technology development and fleet operations that were distributed citywide into the HR, IT and Fleet departments.
Reflecting Mayor Parker’s fiscally responsible approach, this budget continues replenishment of the Rainy Day Fund while maintaining healthy reserves.
Work for the future will include a focus on making city pensions more secure and stable for our employees and affordable for taxpayers, and continued lowering of costs through contract renegotiations and streamlining of work processes.