Houston proposed budget shrinks after Proposition B ruling, legislative action

The proposed FY 2020 budget for the city of Houston shrunk 1% following updates on the validity of Proposition B and a revenue-decreasing bill in the Texas legislature.

The proposed FY 2020 budget for the city of Houston shrunk 1% following updates on the validity of Proposition B and a revenue-decreasing bill in the Texas legislature.

Houston’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget shrunk by $24 million after eleventh-hour changes came to Proposition B’s legal standing and a potentially revenue-shrinking bill made progress in the Texas Legislature.

Changes to the over $5 billion budget came after the conclusion of two weeks worth of budgetary hearings for each city department. Five city departments all received increased allotments in the new budget proposal, while the fire department budget allotment was reduced.

"Instead of being 7.9[%] above the fund balance, we will be 8.7% over the minimum requirement,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said, referring to a reduction in funds pulled from the city's fund balance. “We are in much better shape."

Proposition B path muddled

A May 15 court ruling rendered Proposition B—the ballot measure mandating pay parity between Houston firefighters and Houston police officers—invalid. As a result, the city rescinded layoffs for 220 firefighters, 66 fire cadets and 47 municipal employees that were issued as 60-day notices in April. This increased the city’s expected expenditures by $22.7 million.

Marty Lancton, the president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, hosted a press conference May 21 and asked Turner to enter into binding arbitration to reach an agreement on a contract for the firefighters union.

"We propose that the city commit to binding arbitration so that we can expedite the impasse of our collective bargaining contract," Lancton said. "This is a sensible solution. We continue to wait for the call that the mayor says he is willing to make."

In response to calls for arbitration, Turner said the two should pursue a contract through a collective bargaining agreement which he said is the standard procedure.

"[Houston Fire Department] Chief Peña will move the process forward, but we are more than willing to engage in collective bargaining so we're back to the regular course of business," Turner said. "I'm not going to go back and forth on who's calling it."

Neither party has named a date they could be expected to sit down for negotiations.

Losing revenue

Meanwhile in Austin, Senate Bill 1152, a bill that effectively reduces the amount cities can charge in franchise fees for telecommunication companies, passed in both the House and the Senate. The expected decline in revenue for FY 2020 totals over $16.5 million for the city of Houston.

Even with increased expenditures for reinstated positions and decreased revenue from franchise fees, the elimination of $79 million that would have funded pay raises for Houston firefighters as mandated Proposition B means the city’s overall proposed budget shrunk 1% from its original version. The original draft proposed a $2.156 billion budget, and the revised version called for a reduction to $2.131 billion.

Houston City Council members have until May 28 to submit budget amendments, and the budget will go before council for final approval June 5.

Editor's note: this post has been updated for clarity.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

Final renderings of the O’Quinn Medical Tower. (Courtesy Baylor St. Luke’s)
Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center ‘tops out’ concrete structure, marks milestone for upcoming medical tower

The O’Quinn Medical Tower will also be part of the expanding McNair Campus.

Residents of the Spring Village apartment complex in southwest Houston are being relocated to allow the city of Houston to demolish the complex for detention. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Resident relocations ongoing as Houston preps to demolish flood-prone apartment complex near Westbury

Relocating the residents will cost the city an estimated $1.5 million.

plumbing
Houston approves residential water rate increase after delays, contentious vote

Houston’s residential water rates will increase Sept. 1, City Council approved in a 12-4 vote June 23.

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research released its 2021 State of Housing for Harris County and Houston report on June 22. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kinder Institute 2021 State of Housing report highlights rental squeeze for lower, middle-income households

As of 2019, one in every 11 renters in Harris County had an eviction notice posted to their door; one in every 25 renter households were also evicted.

Bellagreen will open its first carryout- and delivery-only restaurant Aug. 2. (Courtesy bellagreen)
Bellagreen sets opening date for new Galleria-area location

This limited-footprint model will allow guests to pick up Bellagreen’s cuisine through an on-the-go experience, accepting individual and catering orders.

The craft beer industry is growing in the Greater Houston area. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Greater Houston area's craft brewery count grows 344% since 2013

According to NAI Partners, the Greater Houston area has 71 craft breweries.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special legislative session will begin July 8. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces special legislative session to start July 8

Agenda items will be announced before the session begins, according to a release from the governor's office.

The Bellaire City Council is considering a specific use permit that will allow Bellaire Church of Christ to construct new parking on the northern portion of 8001 South Rice Avenue. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bellaire City Council considers new Church of Christ parking lot

The proposal, which faces opposition from several homeowners, could be further deliberated by the council on July 19 before a permit is approved or denied.

Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Hospital system reports 2.2% positivity rate, down 13% year to date

COVID-19 patient numbers at medical center hospitals are down to 309 from the over 2,000 patients those same hospitals were housing in January.

The text of General Order No. 3, which Gordon Granger issued from Galveston in June 1865 to explicitly liberate enslaved Black Texans, runs across the bottom of the mural. (Colleen Ferguson/Community Impact Newspaper)
‘I am filled’: Houston-Galveston area celebrates first Juneteenth as federal holiday

See how local policymakers, historians, artists and philanthropists honored the Juneteenth holiday at its birthplace with the dedication of a 5,000-square-foot mural.

The Texas Central rail connection from Dallas to Houston will feature a bullet train similar to this one. (Courtesy Texas Central Partners/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Supreme Court declines to review high-speed rail case, freeing company up to use eminent domain

Texas Central, the company looking to build a 236-mile high-speed rail line connecting Houston and Dallas, has been given a big win in an ongoing legal battle over whether the company is legally recognized as a "railroad company" under state law.