We return to the question of “how will we pay for the firefighter agreement” question

Gonna keep asking it until we get a full answer.

Mayor John Whitmire

Mayor John Whitmire’s administration is weighing all options, including hiking the city’s property tax rate and charging residents a garbage collection fee, to help pay for its landmark settlement with the Houston firefighters union, according to the City Attorney Arturo Michel.

“I think everything is on the table,” Michel said after a court hearing Monday, specifically mentioning the garbage fee and property taxes. “Nobody has said we’re going to take this route or (that route).”


Administration officials expect the city’s hefty reserves, built up using federal COVID-19 relief money under former Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration, will be enough to get through Whitmire’s first budget season this summer, Michel said.

The city currently has about $428 million in reserves, about $241 million more than the minimum amount it must maintain. Budget Director Melissa Dubowski projected the city will face a $160 million deficit in its next budget, without accounting for the firefighters’ deal. She suggested the city could draw down on its reserves to help cover the gap, and she alluded to some of the same policy proposals Michel mentioned, including new fees and “enhancements to property tax.”

The administration likely will have to weigh policy solutions to help free up resources in future years. That could include potentially charging residents a monthly fee for garbage collection and asking voters to approve a higher property tax rate.

Houston is the only major city in Texas that does not charge residents a fee for garbage and recycling collection. That idea has been kicked around City Hall for decades, both as a tool to stabilize the undermanned Solid Waste Management Department, and as a way to free up the tax dollars that currently support its budget of about $97 million.

See here and here for the background. The article gets into the details of the pay agreement and the two named options; you can read that if you want, I was mostly interested in seeing if other ideas were being floated. I approve of Mayor Whitmire pursuing these items – with the caveat that the revenue cap can’t be addressed until 2026 because of the charter amendments that were passed last November – if in fact he does, because new revenue is absolutely going to be needed, and there are only so many ways to achieve that. I’m sure there will be cuts and more joint ventures with the county proposed to trim expenses, but the reality is there’s only so much available there. The heavy lifting will come from new revenue, if we really go for it. We’ll see.

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7 Responses to We return to the question of “how will we pay for the firefighter agreement” question

  1. C.L. says:

    @David Fagan… how are you gonna feel is your HC tax bill goes up $500 or you end up paying $500/yr to ‘help’ make these back pay payments ?

  2. David Fagan says:

    Just fine, thank you for your concern.

  3. Meme says:

    David is the face of the firefighters. They care about themselves and no one else. They have always been greedy. When the police and municipal employees agreed to work with the city to help the budget, the firefighters chose not to.

    Well, hopefully, the council will stop the madness and put the issue to the voters.

    I think I can find people to run against anyone who votes against letting the voters decide—at least the at-large members.

  4. David Fagan says:

    God bless you Darlin

  5. Pingback: Controller Hollins puts firefighter settlement tab at up to $1.3 billion | Off the Kuff

  6. D says:

    Lol that’s one way of looking at it. Wrong but different.

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