Harris County Commissioners Approve $3.3 Billion Budget

The budget includes additional funds for homeless services, voter registration, and the environment, but drew some criticism for a perceived shortfall in public safety.


Harris County Administration Building in downtown Houston.


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Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday unanimously approved a $3.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins in March.

While the overall budget is about the same as last year — up about 2% — it includes increased spending in some previously underfunded areas.

The budget includes roughly $2 billion in the general fund, with with an $8.4 million expansion of the Harris County Public Defender's Office, and increases in funding to public health and housing services.

In a statement, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said the budget was one he was proud of.

"Our budgets should be a reflection of our values, and I am proud to say that Harris County's fiscal year 2021-2022 budget, with a strong focus on health, safety, equity and restorative justice, reflects the values of Precinct One," Ellis wrote. "The $3B budget, which includes $61M in new spending, moves the County forward in achieving our vision of building a more dynamic, vibrant, and resilient community while being inclusive, equitable, and transparent in all that we do."

Read the entire budget. Story continues below.

The budget also contains an additional $2.6 million for homeless services.

Emilee Whitehurst, head of the Houston Area Women's Center, told court members during the public hearing that those extra funds will be critical in helping survivors of domestic violence.

"We know from research, and certainly from having served on the front lines for these some 40 years, that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women and children," Whitehurst said. "And research has shown, and we know, again, from serving on the front lines, that having a robust homeless response system that includes secure, safe, and stable housing, that is what can assure survivors are able to move their lives forward free from violence."

Other items included a major investment in voter registration, under the new Elections Administration office, as well as investments in water and air monitoring and pollution control enforcement, in line with an analysis performed after the ITC fire.

The budget drew some criticism from law enforcement for perceived underfunding.

David Cuevas, president of the Harris County Deputies' Organization, thanked the commissioners for a 1.2% across-the-board raise for employees.

But, he added, "we are seeing drastic increases of violence in the unincorporated areas of Harris County and in the city. And it's a little concerning, and I am hoping that you all will increase the law enforcement presence by adding additional positions to the Sheriff's Office and our law enforcement partners."

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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