The double whammy of Hurricane Ike and the economic crisis have finally caught up with the City of Houston. City Controller Annise Parker says they’re currently projecting a revenue shortfall of about $53 million, which is about $2 million more than was originally projected.
“Although Houston does continue to fare better than the rest of the nation, we are beginning to see signs of economic stress in our revenue line items. For example, charges for services is down more than $2 million due to lower than expected platting fees for new construction.”
The shortfall won’t translate into reduced services. City officials will offset the $53 million shortage by pulling down money from the city’s general fund.
But Houston Mayor Bill White says city departments should plan to have budgets with little growth over the next 30 months.
“How that will be achieved will depend on the various departments. We’re not going to do one size fits all, although that’s the way politicians like to do because it’s a sound bite. It’s a terrible way to manage. You’ve got to look at the details.”
White says he will not call for a hiring freeze or layoffs, but he does expect departments to closely scrutinize hires and expenditures.
“A one size fits all solution is typical for government which is why government runs so poorly. But not in Houston. We’re going to take a more business-like approach. Our goal is going to be able to deliver services for our population and not compromise those services, and then figure out the best way to get there.”
The mayor told councilmembers they should expect Houston’s economy to get worse before it gets better. And he cautioned them to be prudent about the campaign promises they make to citizens this election year since the budget may not allow them to follow through on all of those ideas.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.