Houston Mayor John Whitmire proposes $3 Billion budget with no tax hike

Houston residents can loosen the grip on their wallets, because Mayor John Whitmire says the city can squeak by next year without a tax hike.

Whitmire proposed a $3 billion general fund budget, which requires neither an increase in city taxes nor a cut in city services or employees.

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Instead, the Mayor plans to use the final remnants of federal COVID relief aid to fill a $160 million deficit over the next 12 months with the City's projected overall spending up a modest 2%.

"I inherited a mess on many fronts, and it's time to go to work. Things are in place to get through 2025 without raising taxes through efficiency and collaboration," said Whitmire.

The Mayor left the door wide open to clawing back money from METRO, which collects a full penny of sales tax on all goods and services purchased in Houston.

"Everything is on the table. Those METRO funds, like city funds, belong to the public, and I think the public expects us to use them wisely," said Whitmire.

The Mayor's budget contained welcome news for undermanned HPD, with funding allocated for five full academy classes to rebuild the ranks. The proposed budget also bankrolls five academy classes for the Houston Fire Department, along with a 10% raise for firefighters - part of a larger labor settlement, which still hasn't gained final approval.

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FOX 26 asked Whitmire if he has the Council votes to ratify the deal.

"We haven't polled, and it's still a work in process, you know. I don't think we have seen the final print, but we are getting close to that time. We are very fortunate to get that agreement, and it is a shame it has been politicized and even condemned the morning after firefighters were saving people in Kingwood," said Whitmire.

Under Whitmire's spending proposal, 68% of city tax dollars will fund public safety, which includes both firefighters and police.

The Mayor also announced he is initiating an outside audit of every city department in search of waste, duplication and inefficiency.

Over the next few weeks, the City Council will offer its input during public hearings, with a final vote likely in June.