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FY2011 COH Budget - Day 1

Meeting Notes - June 1, 2010

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City Council Budget Workshops Begin
June 1, 2010 9:00 am

Houston Tomorrow publishes notes from public meetings to help local governments in their mission to provide transparency and to allow a greater pool of Houstonians to participate in important policy discussions.  These notes are not official meeting minutes, nor do they record every agenda item.

Today marked the start of the City Council’s proposed Budget Workshop Meetings, chaired by Council Member Anne Clutterbuck. These meetings will take place over the following several weeks.  The workshop schedule is available to view online and is briefly outlined at the end of this segment. Mayor Annise D. Parker released the $4.12 billion FY 2011 budget proposal earlier this month, which can be viewed in full on the City’s website.

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office:

The taxpayer supported General Fund expenditure portion of the proposal is $124 million below the adopted FY 2010 budget and represents the lowest spending plan since 2008. It is balanced without a property tax increase of the use of Pension Obligation Bonds, a form of debt that now has been used to bridge budget gaps. It includes several management efficiencies that will cut costs and save taxpayers approximately $22 million.

In response to a question posited by Council Member Wanda Adams, City Controller Ron Green explained that the $22 million in savings is not specifically identified in the proposed budget, as it will occur naturally over the next year and will be spread among the various city departments.

The workshop schedule includes Council Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee Meetings and times arranged for each city department to present their proposed budget to the Council and to answer any questions from council members or citizens. The starting budget workshop event began at 9am with Controller Green presenting on the Annual Trend Report, stating a projected 3.72% decrease in the overall budget for the 2011 fiscal year, in comparison to FY2010. Public Safety (includes Police, Fire and the Courts) accounts for 68.4% of the City’s General Fund operating expenditures. The General Fund excludes resources from special funds and grants. At the end of his presentation, the Controller was sure to note that although the reported figures are conservative projections, they are important and the council should be sure to take them into account while reviewing the proposed budget.

At ten o’clock this morning, the Planning and Development Department followed with their budget presentation, followed by the Public Works and Engineering Department at approximately 10:50 am, with the session ending with a presentation given by the Houston Police Department in the afternoon, starting at one o’clock. The overall theme of the day focused on limiting expenditures wherever possible and making difficult, yet necessary, program cuts to all departments involved.

Planning and Development

Department Director Marlene Gafrick and the Deputy Assistant Director, Marcia Wilson, of the Planning and Development Department for the City of Houston presented the $8,760,000 department FY2011 budget proposal. They outlined several programs that had to be cut in order to limit expenditures for this year’s budget, including the Flexible Workplace Initiative, the Neighborhood Matching Grant program, noting that any loss in personnel will not be replaced and that any funds typically put toward travel, training and office supplies were completely eliminated. As redistricting will be taking place this year with the coming Census 2010 results, several council members expressed concern over the department’s budget being overly limited in facing the upcoming project. In response, Director Gafrick noted this concern, saying that the use of Geographical Information System (GIS) software in the redistricting process will eliminate the need for any new training, and that the legal department is leading the project anyway. Several council members recognized the difficult decisions that come with making budget cuts. Madame Chair Clutterbuck noted that the department’s budget is only down by 1.2% from last year, but directors are already having to make some very tough choices.

Quite a few representatives from the Public Works and Engineering Department were in attendance today at the department’s budget workshop presentation, including the director and many of the division heads. Funds for the PW&E department come from eleven different funding pools. Most of the department’s funds come from special funds, designated to go toward specific expenditures of the PW&E department only, and only a small portion of the department’s overall funds come from the general budget. Regardless, cuts still had to be made, occurring in several divisions, including the Right-of-Way and Fleet Management Division, the Traffic and Transportation Division as well as cuts in sign installation and purchasing of materials.


Police Chief Chuck McClelland Jr. and Joseph Fenninger, the Police Department’s Deputy Director of Budget and Finance, presented their department’s proposed budget before City Council. Several special funds also go directly toward HPD expenditures, but many of the council members’ questions related to the $666,610,890 of the General Fund that also go toward the department’s FY2011 budget. After making several difficult cuts, the department could not cut down to the $666M mark alone, so they transferred about $13M from several special funds that are not highly restricted to pay salaries that would typically be paid for with funds from the General Funds. This worried several council members, but Chief McClelland and Deputy Director Fenninger explained that much of their budget is not under their control, as it is driven by regulations from taxes, retirement contracts, and other formulas. The only salary budget areas they maintain control over include hiring, overtime, and clothing expenses.

I will continue to report highlights from the City Council Budget Workshop Meetings as they occur, but all citizens of the City of Houston are free to attend any of the budget meetings. The location and schedule is posted below. For additional information on the process of building the City of Houston’s budget, click here for the link to an article from City Savvy Online. Also, below is posted an ABC News interview with Controller Green about creating the budget and what he thinks about the process.

City Council Budget Workshop Schedule
City Hall Council Chamber
901 Bagby, 2nd Floor
Houston, TX 77002

June 1
9:00 Council Budget & Fiscal Affairs Council Committee Meeting
10:00 Planning and Development
10:30 Public Works and Engineering
1:00 Police

June 2
9:00 Consolidated Council Meeting
3:00 Controller
3:30 Library

June 3
1:30 Information Technology
2:00 Municipal Courts Administration
2:30 Municipal Courts Judicial
3:00 Convention and Entertainment Facilities

June 7
10:00 Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee Meeting
2:00 Agenda Briefing

June 8
10:00 Solid Waste Management
10:30 Health and Human Services
11:00 Aviation
1:30 Council Meeting - Public Hearing on FY11 Proposed Budget

June 9
9:00 City Council Meeting
1:30 Human Resources
2:00 Finance
2:30 Administration and Regulatory Affairs
3:00 Mayor’s Office/HEC/Affirmative Action

June 10
10:00 - noon Fire
1:30 Legal
2:00 Parks & Recreation
2:30 General Services
3:00 City Council

June 16
9:00 Council Meeting—Consideration of FY11 Proposed Budget

June 23
9:00 Council Meeting—Consideration of FY11 Proposed Budget

June 30
9:00 Council Meeting—Consideration of FY11 Proposed Budget

(Photo Credit: eschipul)

Report from day two
Report from day three
Report from day four
Report from day five
Report from day six
Report from day seven
Report from day eight

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