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The revenue cap is stupid and harmful

Reason #4,739:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

In posting a sluggish population growth estimate for Houston, the U.S. Census Bureau blew a $17 million hole in the city budget.

City officials had expected the count would show Houston had added about 30,400 people by January from the year prior. The Census Bureau on Thursday, however, estimated the city grew by just 9,200 between July 2016 and last summer.

Because the revenue cap voters approved in 2004 limits the city’s annual increase in property tax collections to the combined rates of inflation and population growth, that means Mayor Sylvester Turner must adjust his proposed $2.5 billion general fund budget.

Or he will, if he is unsuccessful in challenging the Census estimate. The city’s estimates, he said, are more up to date and are “based on greater familiarity with local indicators.”

To challenge the estimate, Houston can submit data on topics such as residential building and demolition permits, mobile home placements, household sizes and apartment occupancy rates.

Houston successfully challenged its formal count in the 2010 Census, and also added 3 percent to its population estimate via an appeal in 2006, and a little more than 1 percent to its 2008 count, according to the Census website.

The city’s press release is here. Neither the rate of inflation nor the rate of population growth have anything to do with the city’s needs or its financial capacity. It also as you can see puts an awful lot of power in the hands of unelected federal bureaucrats. Who I’m sure are fine people, but they’re not accountable to the voters of Houston. I mean seriously, who thinks this makes sense? The whole stupid thing needs to be repealed.

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  1. Manny Barrera says:

    When the census is done and over, the population will go down as many people will choose not to do it. I don’t blame them. Last time I was given a long form I found too many of the questions disgusting.

  2. Jules says:

    I don’t think the city is doing a good job of managing finances. If the city can afford to give tax breaks to the rich, the city can afford the revenue cap.

    If you think your property taxes should go up and up, don’t protest your appraisal- or do, and ask for it to go up.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Houston has plenty of money for renaming streets, tearing down statues, and hike and bike trails. This tells me they have enough money already. No need for more revenue.

  4. Manny Barrera says:

    I do agree with the title of the article, why haven’t the fiscal conservatives worked their same magic with the county? Down with the CAP

  5. Ross says:

    @Bill, the street renaming and statue removal were minimal costs. The hike and bike trails were requested by a large number of non-curmudgeon citizens as ways to improve quality of life, and, overall, weren’t that expensive. If the cap isn’t removed, there will be some significant cuts required in public safety, since that’s 60% of the General Fund.

  6. Paul Kubosh says:

    All of you guys who want to remove the revenue cap why don’t you go get the signatures you need to put it in the ballot and let’s have a vote. Yall have been complaining for years but I haven’t seen anyone take any action. Just do it already it’s not that hard. I am sure there are a lot of people just waiting to sign.

  7. Manny Barrera says:

    Paul you know that is not the only way to get things on the ballot, I think our great mayor will put it on the ballot even though a few ignorant council members will be against it.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    From Pelosi to Rahm Emmanuel to Mayor Turner, the Dems’ mid term strategy seems to be promulgating higher taxes for all. Bold strategy, Cotton.

  9. Ross says:

    OK, Bill, other than the pennies you’ve suggested so far, what’s your plan? What services will you cut? Which City employees will you fire? Keep in mind that closing all of the libraries and parks would result in a potential savings of between $100 and $200 on an average property. I get more value than that from the parks and libraries, and those are the sorts of amenities that attract people to the city.

  10. Bill Daniels says:


    I’d cut police and fire, for starters, since they are the big costs. I’d put the bulk of new FD equipment purchases into ambulances, not seldom used fire apparatus. I’d also see how to end TIRZ’s, so that tax money goes into the general fund. I’d also institute a plan to make every city group more efficient…..maybe automatically firing the bottom 5% of employees each year, like some private sector businesses do? Another common sense solution would be to institute something like the “penny plan,” reduce every department’s funding by one percent and let those department heads figure out where that one percent comes from.

    The people of Houston have to live on a budget, why shouldn’t the city have to live on a budget, too?

  11. Jules says:

    I think TIRZ money is outside the revenue cap, but agree they should be eliminated.

  12. Manny Barrera says:

    Some people who claim they don’t live in Houston want to cut police and fire, well I want to tax everyone that uses our streets and facilities.

    Bill how are you enjoying the gasoline prices, that is a tax, it was not the free market that has caused the spike. Bill I am retired, but you claim to work, must be a slow day?

  13. Houston isn’t exactly a bastion of critical thought.

    3 ceo’s and a congressional candidate had to ask an uber driver how to run the 4th largest city with ideas he googled