Houston mayor outlines proposed FY 2021 budget

Jamarcus Alix, Egalitarian

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner outlined details of his proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which he says will close a significant budget gap exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of sales tax revenue.

Mayor Turner says the proposed budget for all funds totals $5.1 billion, an increase of $62.2 million or 1.2 percent. The proposed General Fund budget of $2.53 billion reflects a decrease in spending by $22.17 million or 0.9 percent from the FY2020 Current Budget of $2.55 billion.

Mayor Turner says his proposal will close a $169 million budget gap. To close the budget gap the proposal will include the following:

– $14.5 million in new revenue sources

– $13.9 million reduction for suspension of five HPD cadet classes

– $13.7 million reduction in contingency

– $10.4 million Zoo payment reduction/transfer that’s permissible under CARES Act

– $7 million in saving from furloughing 3,000 municipal employees for a maximum of 10 days; this will not include police or firefighters

– $5.2 million for HPW Debt prepayment from the Building Inspection Fund

– $5 million rent payment deferral to CUS for 611 Walker building

– $900,000 in department reductions

– $98 million drawdown in Fund Balance. This drawdown includes $15 million from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

The mayor says this will empty the Budget Stabilization Fund, which has been used in emergencies like Hurricane Harvey. He says it puts the city in a poor position with hurricane season approaching, but he had to make that adjustment.

“Despite the tough financial challenges, this budget provides funding for overtime for police, three cadet classes for fire, funding for parks, library, trash pickup, and upgrades to the drainage and streets. But it is, it is a lean budget. And for me, it is the toughest budget that we’ve had to put together since I’ve been mayor,” he says.

The mayor says they are also looking into federal guidelines to see if additional dollars can be drawn from the CARES Act.