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Houston Comptroller projects $27M budget surplus for fiscal year 14

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Houston's Comptroller Ronald Green preparing to report on City finances to Houston City Council April 9 2014
Houston's Comptroller Ronald Green preparing to report on City finances to Houston City Council April 9 2014
Marc Pembroke
Comptroller Green (left) and Finance Director Dow report to Council Apr 9 2014
photo by Marc Pembroke

In his monthly report to Houston City Council Wednesday April 7, Comptroller Ronald Green reported 27 million budget surplus for the fiscal year. The monthly financial report included both an increase in property and sales tax revenues over projections and substantial reductions in several departments. Finance Director Kelly Dow's report was based on 8 months of actual figures and 4 months of projections. In accordance with rules adapted earlier for the current budget, any surplus will be carried over to next year.

The report was welcome news since unexpectedly high overtime costs for the Houston Fire Departments had raised concerns earlier this year, and estimates for next year suggest a deficit of as much as $85 million. But contracts negotiations with the Police, Fire and Municipal employees unions are still under way, and the city does not yet have the annual charge for the Firemen's' pension. View and download the Comptroller's Office Reports..

Council member Martin asked if there was a risk of higher last-minute spending before the end of June. Mr. Dow explained that he expected no major change in the last quarter of the fiscal year. He believed the surplus could be slightly higher than $27 million. The Mayor explained that Houston does not have a “spend it or lose it” rule, meaning that departments are not threatened with budget reductions if they operate at less than their projected budgets. Consequently, there is no incentive for them to depart from current below-budget spending. View or download Annual and monthly Municipal Budget and reports on-line.

Council Member Bradford asked for clarification on the reason for the surplus. Comptroller Green explained that the primary change was higher-than estimated sales tax revenues. Council member Costello, chairman of the Finance Committee, pointed out that the debt of the city has shown a significant reduction, largely because of the change to the “pay as you go” approach to financing infrastructure improvements under Rebuild Houston. The Mayor noted that no other major city in America has experienced a similar debt reduction