The city of Houston has made a deal with its municipal employee union pension system to pay about $34.5 million less than it owes the system in the coming year. But it’s still $17 million more than the city planned to spend in the budget that passed last week.
Last week, the city budget approved by Council called for paying about $80 million to the pension. City officials have been negotiating with the pension system for about two months. City Attorney David Feldman said he settled on a figure of $98.5 million with the pension about six weeks ago and since then has been playing defense to ward off pension proposals to reduce the number of pension trustees appointed by the City Council.
There was no clear explanation from the dais as to how the city would cover the $17 million increase over what it had budgeted.
Last year, we noted that by passing unspecified spending cuts, the Mayor and her Council had effectively passed a sham budget (which indeed turned out to be the case at the end of the year, when various gimmicks were required to bring it into balance).
This year, the sham of a “balanced” budget seems only to have lasted one week. Granted, $17 million is almost a rounding error in a budget as large as Houston’s, but still….
UPDATE (06/30/2011): City Council boosts pension payout – Chris Moran, Houston Chronicle
The city of Houston began overspending its 2012 budget before the new fiscal year even begins on Friday.
It was a day of confusion Wednesday in which the City Council approved a last-minute agreement to increase the city’s pension payments by what it thought was $17 million more than called for in the budget approved last week.
In a memo sent to council members hours after the meeting, however, the city’s finance director explained that he had pulled numbers from the wrong section of the budget in presenting a deal that Mayor Annise Parker’s administration made with the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System.
The true increase, it turns out, was $6.5 million.
On just about everything but promoting whatever happens to be the mayor’s latest green initiative, the Parker Administration increasingly comes off as incompetent, clueless, or asleep at the wheel (sometimes a combination of all three!).
Cory Crow wonders, “are they trying to make Lee P. look good by comparison?”