In one of his last pieces for the Press, Tim Fleck suggested that Mayor Bill White and Comptroller Annise Parker would sooner or later butt heads. I'm sure that he nodded knowingly as he read this story today.
Mayor Bill White's budget revenue projections are off by $18.2 million, according to Controller Annise Parker.
Parker is predicting that White's numbers are too optimistic, and she refuses to recognize his projected increase in fines and expected extra money from the Metropolitan Transit Authority, she said Wednesday.
Also, the mayor's plan to cut back on the city's property tax revenue would have an impact on his proposed budget, Parker said.
The controller does not have a vote on the mayor's budget. But the controller must certify how much money the city can spend.
White downplayed the differences in revenue projections, saying once he provides the controller with additional information there won't be a dispute.
"We are confident in our numbers," he said. "I think those (differences) can all be resolved."
In past administrations, the mayor and controller often have disagreed about the amount of money the city will take in and -- as a result -- how much it should spend. Last year, the controller projected that the mayor's budget would fall short by $20.7 million.
After hearing Parker's report, Councilman Mark Ellis asked that the controller make a presention before the Fiscal Affairs Committee so council members can ask more questions about the discrepancies.
"I don't think it's that big a deal," Ellis said of the difference. "If the controller and the mayor's revenue projections were exactly the same, I would think they were in cahoots."
The mayor's proposed general fund budget is $1.454 billion -- a 3.3 percent increase from this year. Some council members find the mayor's plan overly optimistic.
"I think we need to have a thorough analysis," Councilman Gordon Quan said. "I think there are still a lot of questions out there. The controller is supposed to be the watchdog of the mayor. I want to see what she's watching."
One more item:
Some of the ways White's administration plans to close the gap include passing the increased cost of health benefits to city employees, refinancing debt, reducing pension fund payments and laying off employees.
He also is anticipating an additional $6.1 million in fees and plans to transfer $10 million in Metro general mobility money to the city's general fund.
"We are entitled, by contract, to a certain amount of money from Metro," White said.
Former Mayor Bob Lanier used to pump $50 million a year into the city's general fund with an annual cash payment from Metro. But White's predecessor, Mayor Lee Brown, phased that out in exchange for more Metro funding for city transportation projects.
White said his plan to add Metro money into the general fund "is not the same thing" as what Lanier did. He says he is simply counting on Metro to repay money that is due the city, primarily for the construction of Metro's rail line. The money placed in the general fund, he promised, will still be used for mobility projects.
"We've been consulting with Metro. It's been cordial and not adversarial, and we expect prompt payment," White said.