For anyone not familiar with the city budget, the total of $4.9 billion includes enterprise funds like the aviation department, convention facilities and dedicated drainage fund.
The general fund of $2.2 billion is the part that is tax supported and pays for general city services.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker says over the past three years the city has slowly restored many of the cuts made during the recession and this budget completes that process.
“The budget does not require a tax increase, and I would characterize this budget as reasonable and realistic.”
The proposed $2.2 billion general fund is a nearly 5% increase over the 2013 budget. It includes contractually obligated pay increases for the city’s three employee groups, three percent for police and municipal and one percent for fire. It also keeps the Rainy Day Fund fully funded at $20 million.
“My first few years in office, I came in halfway through a budget cycle and immediately had to start cutting spending. And that first budget, we had to slash several hundred million dollars. I feel like I spent my first term in office plugging holes in a leaky boat. But the boat stayed afloat, and now we have the funds to repair the hull and paint the boat and put up a new sail and we’re moving forward.”
While there still isn’t much money to fulfill city wishlists, the mayor did set aside $2.5 million to maintain city facilities that
usually suffer from deferred maintenance. She’s also doubling the number of houses that get single stream recycling, bringing the service to about 55 percent of Houston households.
“It’s the right thing to do for the planet, it’s a great thing to do for our neighborhoods, but it also makes long-term financial sense to preserve landfill space.”
Parker says the city still faces challenges, the two biggest being the city’s pension obligations and rising healthcare costs. The city plans to spend about $360 million next year on healthcare for its employees and retirees, and their dependents.