White’s proposed budget, the size of a large phone book, is designed to reflect the current economic situation. The mayor says the $4 billion budget maintains essential services without increasing property taxes.
“This has been a challenging budget and we are committed to living within the means of the city and to having fiscal discipline within the city of Houston. We don’t compromise existing city services, but this is a budget that contains difficult choices that we’ve made and we hope that the councilmembers will join us in making those tough decisions for our community.”
Some of those tough choices include asking all city departments to trim the fat by as much as 20 percent in some areas. One area that will see budget increases, rather than cuts, is public safety, which includes police, fire and EMS. Those areas account for 67 percent of the city’s overall operating budget.
“We’re proud of the fact that Houston is now setting multi-decade lows in our major crime rates. That’s important, it’s the number one priority of members of our community that they feel safe. And this budget continues the expansion of our police presence and continues to be able to pay at a level that attracts top professionals in fire and police services within our community.”
White says while the number of police officers will increase, the number of cadet classes was cut as well as future signing bonuses for incoming cadets.
But the police department may be one of the only areas to see new employees coming in. White says the city is not under a hiring freeze, but every empty position will be closely scrutinized before any hiring decisions are made.
White has also pledged to reevaluate the budget by September 30th to determine whether economic conditions call for additional pending reductions.
City councilmembers will amend and approve the budget through a series of hearings over the coming weeks.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.