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City of Houston budget approved, focused on amping public safety, infrastructure and drainage | Houston Public Media



City of Houston budget approved, focused on amping public safety, infrastructure and drainage | Houston Public Media

Colleen Deguzman

Houston City Council approved its budget for the next fiscal year.

The approved budget is $6.7 billion with a general fund of $3 billion, which is where city services such as public safety agencies, garbage collection and libraries pull funding from. Half of the general fund will go toward the Houston Police Department and Houston Fire Department — $1 billion for HDP and $593 for HFD.

At this week’s city council meeting, council members went through more than 50 amendments that the council members had submitted to the budget that Mayor John Whitmire had first proposed last month. The mayor supported fewer than a quarter of their suggestions were supported by the mayor and passed through city council.

“This is a good budget and emphasizes public safety, drainage infrastructure, things that we’re asked about,” Whitmire said. “Generators, how can you vote against generators for senior citizens during not only cooling periods, but heat periods. This budget provides for that.”

The budget funds the city’s more than 21,000 employees: 10,000 police and fire staff, and 11,000 municipal workers.

One of the amendments city council approved will fund a local drainage program, adding $8 million from the city’s general fund. This was presented by Council member Tarsha Jackson and was supported by several others, including council members Amy Peck and Abbie Kamin.

Several community members were in City Hall for the drainage discussion and cheered when the City Council voted to approve the item. As council members discussed the amendment, members of the Northeast Action Collective held up a sign at the back of the room that read: “When our streets flood, we flood the streets.”

Another amendment that was accepted, written by Council member Julian Ramirez, allows funding for the creation of a sixth cadet class for the Houston Police Department.

Additionally, a proposed amendment by Council member Letitia Plummer, which secured funding for a generator for Kashmere Gardens Resilience Hub, was passed.

The two council members who voted against the project were Tiffany Thomas and Edward Pollard.

“The reason that I cannot support the budget is because we’re spending more than we’re bringing in, okay?” Pollard told city council. “And I don’t think that’s fiscally sound for any business to do.”

He emphasized that although the budget is spending more than last year, the mayor’s budget is not bringing in any new sources of revenue for the city. Although there were discussions that Whitmire would raise property taxes or implement garbage fees, he did neither.

“All we’re doing is enlarging our structurally unbalanced budget,” Pollard said.

Council member Joaquin Martinez emphasized that the city has been operating in a deficit for decades.

“It’s important to state that this is nothing new, we’ve been closing a 100-plus-million dollar deficit since the (revenue) cap it,” Martinez said.

The budget would take effect July 1.

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