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CitizensNet Message from Mayor Turner

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From citizensNet  enewsletter 

City Government is Working Better Than Ever
Watch as we Move Houston Forward

A message from Mayor Sylvester Turner

When I arrived in the mayor's office five short months ago, the City was
facing a projected budget shortfall of $126 million for the fiscal year
that begins July 1, 2016.  In the weeks that followed, the shortfall
grew to $160 million.  Cost increases, a voter imposed cap on our
revenue growth, a broken appraisal system and the economic downturn
combined to create the worst financial challenge the city has faced
since the Great Recession when more than 700 City workers had to be laid
off in 2011 and services were cut.  

The budget approved by City Council on Wednesday is balanced.  Thanks in
part to an Executive Order put in place last January that helped
identify targeted departmental cuts and savings, the shortfall has been
eliminated and there is a plan in place to continue the positive
progress into the future. We have even cut overall spending in this
budget by $82 million in comparison to the current budget.  This was
accomplished without putting hundreds of hard-working City employees in
the unemployment line or cutting critical services that Houstonians rely
on and deserve.  Instead, it was done via shared sacrifice and laser
fine attention to fiscal management.  As a signal to the credit rating
agencies that have an eagle's eye on the City's finances and to assure
Houstonians that we are keeping an eye on the things that matter most,
it was also done a month earlier than usual, a feat no one can recall
happening in more than 20 years, if ever.

Each City department, the employee unions, City Council and various
other parties worked together to identify cost savings and efficiencies
while also preserving the City's healthy savings account, minimizing
employee layoffs and maintaining the critical City services our
residents rely on and deserve.  We did not balance the budget on the
backs of our library and park users,  nor did we balance it by laying
off police and fire fighters.  In fact, this new budget includes funding
for an additional police cadet class, for a total of five classes, the
most in recent memory.  In addition, I am working with the police chief
to find ways to streamline operations to get more officers back on the
street.  For the first time in years, the number of police officers at
HPD is starting to inch up. This is good news for neighborhoods, some of
which are understandably unsure about their safety these days.  I want
no one to feel unsafe.  

Passing the new budget occurs on one day but the impact of that day is
felt for the next year and beyond.  With this budget, we have put in
place a foundation that will support us for the next several years as
long as we continue to make progress in other areas that are impacting
our pocketbook. 

We will attack the problems that lie ahead with the same aggressive
approach we took in balancing the budget.  Again, everyone will need to
be at the table sharing the work.  This is imperative because if we
fail, there will be dramatic cuts in city services, hundreds of
employees will have to be laid off and our credit rating will likely
suffer.

City government is functioning in ways we have not seen in modern
memory. The "pothole crisis" is in the rear view mirror.  Likewise, the
administration and city council - Democrats and Republicans alike -
agreed to share the sacrifice and passed a balanced budget in record
time. Everyone is in the boat and rowing in the same direction.  It's a
model that is working well today and can continue to work well tomorrow.

Keeping a promise to fill potholes by the next business day was not
easy, but we did it.  Closing a $160 million budget gap was not easy,
but we did that too.  I know solving our other problems will not be easy
either, but I am confident we will get there if we utilize the same
collaborative approach that has gotten us this far.  Just watch us!



  _____  


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