Tomball City Council voted 3-2 to cancel its July 17 special budget workshop meeting, citing a need for paper budget workbooks like what has been done in previous years.

Council Members John Ford, Mark Stoll and Derek Townsend voted for the cancellation, and Council Members Dane Dunagin and Randy Parr voted against.

What happened

In remarks at the beginning of the meeting, Ford said that council members traditionally receive a binder with:

  • All budget proposals
  • Operating budgets for each fund and department
  • Projections for the coming budget year

“In its paper form, this workbook has made it very easy for each council member to look at every segment of the city, city operations, organize their thoughts, write notes and questions in advance of budget workshops,” Ford said.

Ford also said the paper binder usually includes proposed changes to the city’s comprehensive plan and a cover letter from the city manager outlining goals and priorities.

“Without the proper information in a workbook format given to council five to seven days before the discussion, council cannot do an exhaustive review and analysis of the data and be properly prepared prior to these discussions,” Ford said. “So it is for this reason that I move to table these discussions today, this workshop today, until such time that adequate written budget workbooks are prepared.”

Zooming out

An electronic version of the proposed fiscal year 2023-24 budget was included in the June 17 special meeting agenda packet.

According to the city manager

In response to Ford’s comments, City Manager David Esquivel said the intent was to provide paper workbooks to council this year.

“We have had a rough start to this calendar year, taking into account the cyberattack,” Esquivel said. “We were down for about two months just dealing with that and then to try to have the recovery. It delayed a lot of our start for a lot of the things we were trying to implement from last year.”

Esquivel also said there are some things the city is working to finish up in time to be considered in the FY 2023-24 budget, such as the classification and compensation study.

“But as you know, this year isn’t as it was before,” Esquivel said. “If the council so desires that we wait until we have that [paper workbook], we will absolutely work hard to put that together, but there will still be some holes in it.”

What they’re saying

  • “Our staff has worked really hard, many long hours, lots of meetings in preparing this information,” Mayor Lori Klein Quinn said prior to council members voting. “This has been an unusual year in our city.”
  • “It is very difficult for us as members of our community to plan for the future if we don’t have the verbiage to go along with numbers,” Townsend said after the vote. “We’ve always had the verbiage and the explanations. We understand it’s an unusual year for everybody. ... We know that you all have worked very, very hard. I just want to make sure that when we’re doing this budget that we have every bit of information in it.”

Stay tuned

A makeup date for this first budget workshop has not been set, according to Tomball’s city meetings portal.

Two more budget workshop meetings are scheduled for Aug. 7 and Aug. 21, according to the June 17 regular meeting agenda.