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Houston Controller Warns Of $280M Shortfall

In a recent announcement, Houston Controller Chris Hollins warned of a looming budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, projected to be between $230 to $280 million, as first reported by The Houston Chronicle.

This fiscal strain arises from the city’s inability to sustain the costs incurred by the recent landmark settlement with the firefighters union, negotiated by Mayor John Whitmire. The settlement ended a yearslong bitter legal battle, committed to paying $650 million in back pay and an up to 34% salary increase over the next five years.

Houston was only able to build up its budget reserves using federal COVD-19 relief money, currently standing at a fund balance of approximately $428 million. Hollins cautioned that this surplus only offers temporary relief, and that the landmark settlement with the firefighters union posed significant financial challenges.

“This is a long-standing pattern that the city for years and years has been spending on a recurring basis more than is brought in,” Hollins said during a Tuesday press conference. “You start to look at the numbers and they pile up, and it’s my job to at some point say, ‘hey, we can no longer foot this bill.’”

In response to this fiscal challenge, Whitmire’s team proposes various measures to curb expenses and generate revenue. These include potentially adjusting the city’s property tax revenue cap, implementing a garbage fee, and enforcing 5% budget cuts across most city departments, as reported by The Houston Chronicle.

While Hollins supports exploring new revenue streams like a garbage fee and removing the revenue cap, he opposes substantial budget cuts or layoffs. He emphasizes the importance of preserving essential city services, such as water provision, trash collection, and road safety projects, which residents rely on and pay for with their tax dollars.

“We were elected with a mandate to not only maintain but to improve the quality of critical city services … and we must uphold that responsibility,” he said. 

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Written by RA News staff.


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