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Update: Mayor Turner Reveals New Budgeting Plan

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday he signed an executive order requiring a new focus on how the city deals with its budget.

Sylvester Turner
Mayor Sylvester Turner announces his executive order to tackle the city’s budget shortfall.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s first executive order is part of a long-range financial plan the mayor wants to implement. It aims to make the city’s budgeting decisions more transparent and hold decision-makers accountable.

The main idea is to focus on performance of a department or program rather than what its funding was the previous year.

“You know, we talked a lot about zero-based budgeting,” Turner said. “It’s very, very difficult to do zero-based budgeting in a five-month period. That takes a much longer period of time. But performance-based budgeting you can do right now.”

Turner said programs that don’t reach certain objectives will be in danger of losing their funding.

Per the executive order, the city will regularly review the budgets for city departments and programs, and the finance department has to approve any proposals that involve the allocation of city dollars.

It also calls for increasing public participation in the budget process.

Turner repeated his warning that everyone will have to make sacrifices.

“But if the city can weather this particular storm, change the model to weather this particular storm, the future of this city will be great for everyone,” he said.

Council members welcomed the executive order, praising the mayor’s initiative to tackle the looming $126 million budget shortfall.

Some of the highlights noted in the plan include:

  • Helping City leadership make informed choices through increased visibility into departmental budgets, resource allocations and service provision
  • Focusing budget, capital and spending decisions on specified, measurable results and outcomes
  • Fully linking operating budgets, Capital Improvement Plan, and performance metrics to clear, measurable short and long-term goals
  • Maximizing City resources by eliminating waste, inefficiency and redundancy within and across departments
  • Increasing public participation in assessing needs and establishing priorities that guide development of the City’s operating budgets and Capital Improvement Plan

In a statement, the mayor says he hopes the changes will be reflected in the upcoming budget.

“We will hold ourselves accountable and will enable others to do the same by making city spending and performance information more transparent and accessible,” said Turner.  “The shift to performance-based budgeting and management will take time, but we can make great progress as we begin to build the budget for the coming fiscal year.”

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