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FY2011 COH Budget - Day 4

Meeting Notes - June 8, 2010

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On June 8th, there were three budget workshop meetings for the Department of Solid Waste Management (SWM), the Department for Health and Human Services (HDHHS), and the Houston Airport System (HAS).

Solid Waste Management

Harry J. Hayes, Director of SWM, presented his department’s over $70 million budget today at 10am to City Council. Click here to view the department’s powerpoint presentation. SWM’s new budget includes funding from two sources: about $70 million from the General Fund and almost $2 million from a special revenue fund, the Recycling Expansion Program.

According to their budget summary, SWM’s mission statement is as stated below.

SWM will provide the citizens of Houston with cost-effective, environmentally sound and safe solid waste management services. Inherent within this mission are several major tasks: residential garbage collection, heavy trash collection, dead animal pick-up, opportunities for all citizens to reduce waste through participation in recycling opportunities, directly and indirectly, and performing the disposal functions associated with all of these operations.

Director Hayes shared several significant budget changes and highlights. First, SWM aims to reduce waste for disposal by approximately 50,000 tons through the expansion of automated recycling, biodegradable bags and increased Neighborhood Depositories operations. They report that this volume is scheduled for recycling/composting to conserve valuable landfill airspace. Second, SWM will continue to implement automated curbside recycling programs with four new collection vehicles serving up to 50,000 homes. Thirdly, SWM will introduce biodegradable bags citywide as recommended by the Mayor’s Solid Waste Task Force. Fourthly, SWM will continue to reduce collection expenses by optimizing route sequencing and disposal site selection.

Ideally, SWM would like to provide recycling services for every Houston neighborhood. This is not currently possible due to funding limitations, but SWM aims for their recycling program to be as efficient as it possibly can be with the resources available now. Director Hayes estimated that it would be at least ten years before SWM can get everyone in Houston recycling. Currently, there is no policy in place to charge residents for recycling, which is one possible route to help with the funding issues, but SWM does not currently plan to charge a fee for its services. It is up to City Council as to whether such a policy should be enacted and they plan to discuss it further at a later date with the Mayor’s Solid Waste Task Force.

After a bit of discussion, several Council Members also mentioned wanting to have a discussion at another time of what services should be considered core service activities, which are paid for by sales and property tax revenue, as there exists some disagreement among the current council members.

Health and Human Services

Director Stephen L. Williams presented the Health and Human Services Department’s FY2011 budget of about $48 million to City Council. The department’s budget plans to help reorganize the HDHHS to most effectively and efficiently improve health outcomes, as well as reduce costs by streamlining administrative functions before cutting programs, and restructure the organization to maximize managerial and supervisory capacity (i.e., increase span of control as appropriate). HDHHS has organized itself around seven areas of priority:

-Protect the community from communicable disease
-Optimize the health of mothers, infants, and children
-Protect environmental health
-Well being through human services
-Provide the community with information
-Prepare for a health disaster
-Reduce the incident of chronic disease.

Director Williams mentioned several objectives for HDHHS for the coming year. Four of these included: first, the department hopes to test 15,000 participants in the 5th annual HIPHOP for HIV event; secondly, they hope to cross-train a quarter of their environmental investigators, inspectors and sanitarians; thirdly, HDHHS aims to improve timeliness of public health response through electronic lab results and disease reporting; and fourthly, they want to build four more sustainable community gardens. The department receives half of its funding from grants and about eighty percent of its total budget goes toward personnel salary.

In having to reduce the HDHHS budget by $1.8M, Williams reported that they had to eliminate several personnel positions, reclassify other positions to improve efficiency, and change several more staff positions from being paid by the General Fund to being funded by grant money from outside sources.

Houston Airport System

Three people from the Aviation Department presented the HAS budget to City Council. This included the Director of Aviation, Mario Diaz, the Deputy Director of Planning, Design & Construction, Eric Potts, and the Deputy Director of Finance and Administration, Ian Wadsworth.The over $414 M budget for HAS comes primarily from a special enterprise revenue fund. This means that no taxpayer money goes toward funding this department’s operations and that it runs mostly on revenue gained from user fees.

For the coming year, HAS aims to focus on employee training, customer service, non-airline revenues, gaining efficiencies in every way possible, and extending air services throughout the world.

The HAS budget has $3M remaining as a contingency plan for the uncertainties that exist within the airline business and City Council Members agreed that this was a good idea for them to have “just in case.”

(Photo Credit: eschipul)

Report from day one
Report from day two
Report from day three
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Report from day six
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Report from day eight

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