October sales tax allocations, and city finances

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I meant to get this posted last weekend when Tom Bazan emailed a heads up, but life intervened…

Anyway, the October sales tax allocation to the City of Houston and to METRO stands in contrast to that of previous months. The city’s allocation dropped more than two percent over the previous year, and METRO’s was nearly flat. Previous months have seen sizable increases in the allocations, thus keeping the coffers of both entities flush.

In other news this week, Mayor White and Controller Annise Parker are looking at ways to “shore up” the city’s finances:

Houston could delay spending on as much as $200 million in public infrastructure projects in the coming years to shore up city finances in the wake of the deepening credit crisis, Mayor Bill White and City Controller Annise Parker announced Thursday.

The city also plans to wait out the storm in credit markets by temporarily liquidating some of its investments to avoid borrowing at excessively high interest rates.

“There is not a crisis in our city finances,” White said. “We don’t want to be reacting to circumstances after the fact. We don’t want to be telling our citizens that we didn’t notice there was a recession coming down the pike and, therefore, we have to raise taxes in order to meet an obligation that we did not defer.”

In the short term, the city will be able to avoid the draconian measures — such as layoffs or across-the-board budget cuts — already put in place by local and state governments across the country, he said.

But city departments are combing through their budgets, looking for projects that will have to be delayed. Much of the work expected to be delayed will come from planned water and sewer line rehabilitation projects, White said. Other examples include holding off construction on a new health department building and an overpass on Mykawa Road in southeast Houston.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.