Did we mention that the next city budget is gonna suck?

Because it is, in case we hadn’t mentioned it before.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that the coronavirus crisis will impact “every facet of city governance” and require furloughs of city workers, though he declined to say how many employees would be forced to take unpaid leave.

Even before U.S. oil reached a lowpoint of minus-$40 a barrel Monday, city officials were preparing for Houston’s tightest budget ever, thanks to a precipitous drop in sales tax revenue and an already sharp plummet in oil prices.

The fresh collapse of the oil market prompted Turner for the first time to acknowledge that city employees would be furloughed, and the city would defer a number of payments, for the fiscal year that begins in July.

“It’s not any more unique than what other cities are facing across the country. But it’s real in the city of Houston,” Turner said. “I’m not trying to hide it. These are the realities. This will be the worst budget that the city will deal with in its history.”

Turner declined to provide further details about the scale of the furloughs or what level of budget cuts he expects city departments to undergo. He did say cadet classes would be deferred due to the economic crisis but did not specify whether he was referring to fire cadets, police cadets or both.

Houston Controller Chris Brown said the city’s budget situation likely will prove “equal to or worse than” the Great Recession in the late 2000s. In the fiscal year that began in July 2011, then-mayor Annise Parker laid off 764 city employees to close a $100 million budget gap.

We’ve known this is coming. We won’t have a starting point for exactly how bad it is until the Comptroller releases the March sales tax data, but I think we can all agree that it will be Very Bad. We need sufficient testing so we can begin to reopen things in a safe manner, but the only way out of the hole we’re in is going to be help from the federal government. Which, if we learned anything from the 2009 recession, should be obvious, in that the resulting deep cuts to state and local governments in the years following the initial downturn acted as a huge drag on the economic recovery, offsetting stimulus efforts to a large degree. There’s still hope for that to happen in another round of coronavirus response money, if only because keeping the economy from completely capsizing is in the Republicans’ interests in a way it wasn’t in 2009-2010. But until then, expect there to be a whole lot of doom and gloom.

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20 Responses to Did we mention that the next city budget is gonna suck?

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    City of Houston Yesterday 20 cases
    Butler Stadium yesterday as of 4:00 p.m. 515 tested.
    Delmar Stadium yesterday as of 4:00 p.m. 300 tested.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    City of Houston Yesterday 20 cases
    Butler Stadium yesterday as of 4:00 p.m. 515 tested.
    Delmar Stadium yesterday as of 4:00 p.m. 300 tested.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    Sufficient testing. No one knows that number. No consensus on the right or left. Non one who needed a ventilator was denied a ventilator, right? We ended up having enough, right?

  4. Jules says:

    ICU nurses don’t have enough PPE. Where is the PPE?

    We can’t be blowing up the numbers without N95 masks for nurses.

    Paul, did those 20 cases come from the 815 tested? Or were those results from another test day?

  5. C.L. says:

    @Paul… ‘Sufficient testing’…of the 5M or so folks in Houston MSA ?

  6. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The GOP sees this as a political rather than a medical problem….thats why they’ve failed.

    Instead of listening to medical and scientific professionals, thr GOPs response is led by fast food franchisors, the WWE, car dealers, gym owners, and I suppose bail bondsmen.

  7. Jules says:

    Sean Hannity thinks baseball could be opened up if every worker was tested every day. Of course, Sean Hannity is an idiot*, but if people are going to work close to other people, we need testing like that for everything.

    *you couldn’t eat popcorn, but you could have a hotdog bc you can bite it then chew under your mask. And drink beer through a straw.

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    Jules, I believe that Hannity says a lot of things that even he doesn’t believe. But he gets paid well to say them.

    The economic effects of this disaster will be worse and longer lasting than the health effects. The other thing not mentioned is that property values in the city should drop. I believe that a lot of people now working remotely may continue to do so, and realize that they don’t need to pay the high rent or mortgage to live in a city. Plus, they will be a bit hesitant to live in an apartment building with common areas, and to ride buses and trains to work. It may take some time for people to want to go to theaters, sports events, and other crowded venues. So cities may be a casualty of the pandemic, and, in Houston, property tax is most of the revenue. The crash of oil prices (I never thought I’d see oil go to negative territory) is probably not going to last forever, but it is a big problem for Houston in the near term.

    In other ways, Houston has been fortunate to (so far) not have a big outbreak, like New York and Detroit.

  9. David Fagan says:

    This is a time to get rid of the revenue cap. If revenues of previous years wear allowed to be collected, it could help now. Also, Governor Abbot has mentioned revenue caps when limiting economic assistance to Houston. It does not help Houston previously, or now.

  10. C.L. says:

    @Jason… how does C19 affect property values ?

  11. David Fagan says:

    “But did not specify whether he was referring to fire cadets, police cadets or both.”

    Let me help on this one. Police were budgeted for 5 cadet classes for the 2020 budget. The only firefighter cadet class that was planned was planned after losing so many fire fighters the mayor had to budget one. The fire chief had to convince the mayor to give FF cadets a 28% raise (must’ve been hard for the mayor, after the mayor said 17% raises were unheard of, and impossible for the city) just to fill the class and compete with other cities. Now there are even fewer firefighters. If the mayor is referring to classes, as in the plural, since there is only one FF class, it will have to include police. The real question is, can he afford to cancel the one cadet class of FF’S he so desperately had to work for?

  12. Manny says:

    Jason you worry about gentrification, but not about people dying.

    Jason, “The economic effects of this disaster will be worse and longer lasting than the health effects.”

    Last time I checked death is like forever, so your statement is utter nonsense.

  13. Paul Kubosh says:

    Jules, I don’t know. I reported the numbers as they were given to me. I would assume not but I am speculating.

  14. Paul Kubosh says:


    I wish Bail Bondsmen if so crime wouldn’t be up in my opinion.

  15. Jason Hochman says:

    C.L.–like I said, cities may well be a casualty of the pandemic, as people won’t be so eager to live in crowded environments, and not wanting to pay a high rent or mortgage to live close to work, as they become more accustomed to working remotely. Thus, less desire to live in the city, less value for the property.

    Manny, I refer to the effect on society, not individuals. People may die, but society can still go on…also, the mortality rate from this virus may be much lower than we thought…

  16. Joel says:

    “Sufficient testing. No one knows that number. No consensus on the right or left. ”

    Paul, I’m sure you have some obfuscatory, know-nothing, both-siderist response at the ready, so I hold out no hope that this will stop you from spouting nonsense, but you keep making a claim that is simply not the case.

    Here are some hard numbers from a *right* wing source that answer all the questions you are still pretending to have:


  17. Manny says:

    Jason, you don’t make sense. Societies as have been can also die, recent example would be Russia, even China to a large degree.

    As to the mortality rate may be much lower, than we thought. Again death is okay gentrification is not okay.

    Jason your priorities are out of whack. Your heart may be in the right place, but.

    The fact that there have been enough ventilators is probably because of Mayor Turner, and County Judge Hidalgo taking hits from the ignorant right wing Republicans, e.g. for closing the rodeo and taking quick action to help prevent the spreading of the virus.

  18. Jason Hochman says:

    Manny, no, not saying death is “OK” but sadly is inevitable for all. Today I heard from the UN that the second pandemic may be dramatic increases in world hunger. A famine of “Biblical’ proportions.

    As for closing the rodeo early, I recall that there were petitions to do so, but Mayor Turner said that it was not necessary, because the cases in the Houston area were all from the group that went to Egypt. There was no “local transmission.” As if the cases that came here couldn’t have been transmitted at the airport, or elsewhere, and just not known. Later, we found that several people got sick from the rodeo. So, let’s not give too much credit.
    Houston has been incredibly fortunate so far, with low numbers of cases and deaths. I could speculate on several reasons, perhaps because low public transportation use, the warm, humid weather (even warmer than usual this past winter and into this spring), and the more spread out nature of Houston.

  19. Pingback: Turner to ask feds for some relief – Off the Kuff

  20. Manny says:

    Jason, I just love how you shift your arguments, now hunger all over the world.

    Why the constant shift in arguing something?

    The more I read your arguments, the more convinced is that are nothing but a milder form of Bill Daniels.

    Houston has been incredibly fortunate, I guess all the distancing requirements and closing had nothing to do with it. Like I previously stated you may be a milder form of Bill Daniels.

    The UN Report is over a three year period, it specifically blames climate change. Like I said either you throw out stuff for the pure of fun of it, or you a typical Republican troll that engages with altered realities. Stop with the lies.


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