May 14, 2008
The city budget for 2009

The Mayor's proposed budget for 2009 has something for everyone, which no doubt also means something for everyone to complain about.

Mayor Bill White unveiled a record $4 billion budget proposal Tuesday, calling for a sharp increase in spending on public safety while cutting the property tax rate by a half-cent.

The mayor's fiscal 2009 budget also would, if approved, create a dedicated set-aside of tax revenues to pay for drainage improvements, fund the addition of 150 police officers and add 50,000 homes to the curbside recycling program.

"Because we've enjoyed strong economic growth, and because we're running City Hall more efficiently, we can afford a tax rate cut of half a penny per $100 of valuation to bring our tax rate down," White said.

City revenue is projected to be $4.07 billion in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. That would be an increase of 6.7 percent over the current fiscal year.

For the first time, the general fund -- the part of the budget paid for by property and sales taxes, fees and fines -- will top $2 billion. The remainder of the budget is made up of user fees for water, sewer, the airports and entertainment facilities.

"It's a big budget we have, but the citizens can be sure we have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb," White said. "Wherever we can find savings, we try to squeeze out savings, which is one reason we are able to deliver far more services with a lower tax rate."

The budget would provide an additional $105 million for police, fire and EMS. Public safety spending makes up 58 percent of the general fund.

I can't wait to hear the complaints from certain factions that both the tax cut and the increase in spending on police are too small. Why, if only we'd budget like the federal government has been doing these past few years, we could have more of each and have enough money left over to fund an invasion and occupation of Galveston. You just have to think outside the box a little, and not worry too much about what will happen after you're term-limited out.

New to this year's budget is a dedicated funding source for drainage improvements. Subject to council approval, 0.3 cents of every $100 in property value would be dedicated to flooding projects.

The rate would rise gradually, reaching 0.75 cent by 2017.

Next year, the set-aside could raise $2.6 million.

The city has scheduled $211 million in capital drainage improvements in its current five-year capital plan.

In his Looking Forward to 2008 essay, Noel Freeman called for the city "to set the budget for drainage infrastructure maintenance and improvements at no less than $100 million for FY2009 and to set a five year plan to increase that number to $150 million by FY2013". I don't know about the first part of that, but it would seem that the second condition has been more than met. Putting more resources into drainage improvements, especially as the city continues to densify, is a very good thing in my book.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 14, 2008 to Local politics

I can't wait to hear the complaints from certain factions that both the tax cut and the increase in spending on police are too small.

They shouldn't, IF they were the ones defending the County tax cut. And they should also report it the same as said County tax cut, as having a negligible effect on citizen's income.

In other words, OF COURSE the tax cut is symbolic. It's something to roll out when babies need to be kissed and a record needs to be brought up as a "fiscal conservative".

I applauded Mayor White for focusing on the "nuts and bolts" and just wish he would have done so sooner in the budget. I've been calling for that on my blog for a few years now.

So he did, and I stated that he deserved a pat on the back.

But I reserve the right to snicker at the symbolic tax "cut" in the same manner that I snickered at the Harris County tax cut.

I'd rather they keep the money and fully fund flood control, other infrastructure and public safety.

But all too often the money doesn't go to things like that.

Posted by: Cory on May 14, 2008 5:39 PM
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