In the end, this was pretty boring. Which is a good thing.
Houston city council approved Mayor Sylvester Turner’s $5.1 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year with little commotion Wednesday, authorizing a spending plan that was scrambled at the last minute by developments at the Legislature and a judge’s ruling that the voter-approved Proposition B is unconstitutional.
The council voted 12-4 in favor of Turner’s budget after approving a series of amendments during a nearly seven-hour session. The budget covers city spending for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
About half the spending — $2.53 billion — will come out of the city’s tax- and-fee-supported general fund, which pays for most of the city’s day-to-day core operations, including public safety, trash pickup, parks and libraries. The city is set to spend about 1.9 percent more than it is projected to spend during the current fiscal year.
The remaining spending will come out of “enterprise” funds, which are supported by fees, including the Houston Airport System, and city utilities, which run on residents’ water bills.
Also complicating the budget was a bill passed by the Legislature that limits the fees telecommunication and cable companies pay cities to use their rights of way. That opened a spending gap of more than $16 million, according to city budget officials.
Wednesday’s budget approval followed consideration of more than 30 amendments proposed by council members.
Among the amendments approved were proposals to create new finance transparency requirements, change how the city sets its next budget and commission studies that could change how the city’s fleet management and solid waste departments operate.
In the end, there were no layoffs thanks to Prop B getting tossed by the courts. That could still get reversed on appeal so it’s not a settled matter, but for now it’s where we are. A respite from that drama, no matter how brief, is welcome.