Stunning information released at this week’s Budget & Fiscal Affairs Committee of the Houston City Council raises new questions about how Sylvester Turner is spending your money and plans to get more of it.
According to a review by the city controller’s office, $397 million was spent without the approval of city council and the controller’s office. Under state law, city council and city controller review and approval is required for any expenditure of more than $50,000, but there is no such oversight for spending that falls below that threshold.
City departments are notorious for spending right up to the $50,000 threshold. It’s a way to avoid having to face the scrutiny of city council. It is also a way to avoid transparency. Four hundred million dollars is a whole lot of money and there must be an accounting of where it went. I am calling on Turner to immediately release the list of these payments. It will be interesting to see how that list compares to Turner’s campaign contributions. There may also be valuable information about areas where the city can cut back.
Turner keeps saying he can’t afford to swear in 68 fire cadets or implement Proposition B that was approved by voters last fall. Maybe the money he needs is in the $400 million he spent without Council approval.
The Houston Public Works Department announced during the Committee meeting that it is doing a water/sewer rate study. That is government speak for “we are getting ready to raise your water and sewer bills.”
In the Parker administration, the City adopted an automatic escalator for the water/sewer rates that allows annual increases based on inflation and the City’s population growth. That formula has resulted in rates rising by about 2.5% annually. The study Turner has ordered Public Works will determine if costs are going up faster than the formula. I’ll give you one guess how that study will turn out.
Oh, one other thing. The rate study will not be finished and presented to Council until early 2020. What an amazing coincidence; just after the 2019 election.