It’s a tedious process to implement the new budget, with councilmembers taking as long as two hours to consider a single amendment out of the list of 63. Houston Mayor Annise Parker reminded them that there’s not much extra money to work with.
“We presented a budget with just about $12 million in discretionary additional spending this year. It’s a budget that meets all the city’s needs, but it is not a budget with a lot of new elements,” Parker said.
The $5.2 billion budget has a spending increase of about $170 million more than last year. Most of that will go to fund pension obligations and debt. The mayor also reminded councilmembers that any extra spending they authorize this coming year will reduce the amount of cash the city has to put toward projected budget shortfalls for the following four years.
“Next year you see an expected budget deficit of $139 million, and then $158 million, $200 million and $179 million. It was our desire to retain as much revenue as possible to next year’s budget to offset some of those challenges,” Parker said.
Despite that reminder, one of the first amendments the council authorized was to allocate $5 million to district councilmembers for special projects.