Some Services Restored, But Money Still Tight In City's New $4.2 Billion Budget

 

The mayor and council spent almost nine hours debating the budget before voting to pass it.

Mayor Annise Parker says the city has enjoyed increased revenues this year, so she didn’t need to raise the property tax rate:

“Revenues are up because sales tax is up. So the economy is rebounding and our property taxes are up. There is new construction going on in the city of Houston of which we are very proud.”

Although revenues are up, the city also faced increased costs for health care and pensions.

Parker says that’s why she couldn’t bring back all of the services that had to be reduced last year, though she did reinstate some:

“I would like to restore all of the library hours that we had previously cut. I would like to be able to up our mowing schedule on our park properties. I’m glad of the fact that we restored our swimming pool activities and I’m very glad of the fact that I have been able to bring the 311 system back to 24/7 operation, although it will take a little while to get it completely staffed up. So there’s some things that I’m happy we were able to bring back; some things that I’m sad that we’re not quite there yet.”

Parker says she was also able to find $5 million in this budget to test a backlog of rape kits.

The untested kits have become an embarrassment to the city.

Council members proposed various amendments to the budget as a way to advance their own priorities and pet projects.

Some of the last-minute votes included a requirement that certain groups pay for police protection if they want to hold a parade.

The council also decided to study a change in city term limits from two to four years – although that would eventually require voter approval in a citywide referendum.

And, council also voted to undertake a serious study of whether to ban the use of plastic bags.

 

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