The city of Houston is expected to see a $160 million gap in the budget for fiscal year 2024-25.

Current situation

Director of Finance Melissa Dubowski said the city's operations are not sufficient in supporting the recurring revenue with the recurring expenditures, which is causing an approximately $160 million budget shortfall in FY 2024-25.

During the March 6 City Council meeting, Dubowski said city officials need to be more mindful of their spending while seeking efficiencies and expenditure reductions to close the budgetary gap.

She gave some examples on how the finance department is seeking ways to accomplish that goal, including:
  • Consolidating services across departments
  • Looking at what department vacancies can be eliminated
  • Seeking new recurring revenue sources
Dubowski said possible new revenue sources include looking at public safety exemptions, property tax changes and fee adjustments to cover costs.

"It's crucial that we exercise prudence in managing our fund balance, finding efficiencies and maximizing revenues, including new revenue sources." Dubowski said. "We have to ensure stability and sustainability as we go forward."

What they are saying

Mayor John Whitmire said moving forward, council needs to start scrutinizing costly projects before placing them on the council agenda to make sure items are necessary and cost effective.

"We have departments that are barely funded as we are talking," he said during the meeting. "When [the parks and recreation department] tells me that they have to shuttle their workers to work sites because they don't have enough trucks, it's pretty serious. When we have [the Houston Police Department] wrestling with a problem in suspending cases for lack of staffing, ... it's a lot of neglect."

Next steps

The proposed FY 2024-25 budget is expected to be released in mid-May, Dubowski said, which will also include a five-year forecast for the city.
  • In mid- to late May, city departments will conduct budgetary workshops and engage with council members on needs.
  • Between late May and early June, the city will host a public hearing on the proposed budget.
  • FY 2024-25 will begin July 1.
"I hope this is the beginning of a very sober discussion," Whitmire said. "Each and every dollar we spend is going to have to be wise."