City Dips Into Cash Reserves

The mayor's proposed budget plan for Houston includes dipping into the city's cash reserves. More than 200-million dollars are set aside for times such as these — and Mayor Bill White says the time has come to use some of that money. Laurie Johnson reports.

This year's city budget is of the gritty tighten-your-belt variety.

But the city has maintained cash reserves for several years. That fund built up over time. Mayor White says that money was always intended to supplement essential services when needed.

"Those monies would be used to pay for increased public safety expenditures and drainage expenditures that are investments we needed to make. And that's been the plan and that's what we've done."

The budget dips into the reserves because annual expenses exceed estimated revenues for the upcoming year. The mayor calls for the use of about $49 million out of the cash reserves. The total fund contains nearly $220 million.

Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck, who chairs the budget committee, says every item in the budget was checked and rechecked, but now is the time for the public to speak up.

"This is not necessarily the final budget, we're looking for input. And beginning in two weeks, on May 26th, we will begin our budget workshops which, for the listening public, are the time that the department directors come and explain their particular budgets, what they hope to accomplish, their particular cuts."

Some departments that could be facing cuts, or at least modifications, are water/sewer services, IT and payroll. The mayor says the city may hire consultants to help those departments become more efficient.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...