Despite sounding the alarm for months that a multimillion dollar deficit could force service cuts, new fees and employee layoffs, Mayor Annise Parker rolled out a $5.1 billion city budget on Tuesday that largely preserves spending levels by drawing on one-time funding sources and higher-than-expected revenues to plug the gap.
Parker warned that more than 90 percent of the $130 million general fund spending increase will go to contractually obligated spending, pension obligations in particular. The city’s financial outlook also continues to be hobbled in coming years by a triple threat of rising pension costs and debt service and a voter-imposed revenue cap that limits the city’s ability to collect property taxes.
The city is “standing still, we’re not moving forward” under the proposed budget, Parker said.
A looming question as the city’s projected revenue gap dropped from $144 million to $63 million earlier this year was whether that might dampen Parker’s ability to pitch an amended or repealed revenue cap to City Council and voters. On Tuesday, Parker said she would wait to bring any such changes to City Council until after budgeting is done and the Legislature wraps up, but “there’s still room for conversations.”
Here’s the Mayor’s press release, which has the details. The main items of note are $2.8 million for body cameras and an increase in the homestead exemption for seniors to comply with the stupid revenue cap. I’m glad to see that’s still something the Mayor would like to discuss, though I doubt it will go anywhere at this point. Council gets a chance to introduce its own amendments when the budget gets debated next month. Perhaps then we’ll see if there’s been some kind of shift in power.