It’s now legal for men to use women’s bathrooms, showers, and dressing facilities – and vice-versa – thanks to the passing of the Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston, TX last Wednesday night.So, instead of tackling the truly hard issues such as Houston City debt, they do this.
Mayor Parker, Houston’s first openly gay mayor, called it “most personally meaningful thing I will ever do as mayor.”
The ordinance’s stated goal is to eliminate discrimination in housing and employment for gays, transgenders – 14-characteristics in total – including race, ethnicity, age, religion and disability.
Opponents have 30 days to attain more than 17,000 petition signatures to appeal the decision.
The political way to describe the numbers, presented by city budget chief Kelly Dowe, might be to say they present a challenge, or perhaps an opportunity. In plain English, they are bleak.And property taxes have been rising like crazy. What the hell has Houston been doing with my money?
Beginning next summer with fiscal year 2016, Houston will face a projected $142 million gap between expected revenues and expenses in its general fund, which is fed chiefly by property and sales taxes and funds most basic city services. That exceeds the $137 million budget gap Houston had to close during the economic recession, when Mayor Annise Parker laid off 776 workers in making numerous cuts in 2011.
And the projected gap will widen in the years to follow. By fiscal year 2018, the budget deficit is expected to top out at a projected $205 million.
The calculations resulting in those projected deficits assume no raises for city workers or added investments in vehicles and technology that cannot be put off forever, said Councilman Stephen Costello, meaning the actual deficits could be higher.
Oh. Yeah. The same problem LA and other cities have been struggling with: PENSIONS.
Driving the problem are soaring pension payments and a spike over the next four years in the cost of servicing debt.And we all know who will suffer, right? THE TAX PAYERS.
The single largest expense increasing in the proposed 2015 general fund budget is a 21 percent hike paid into the city's three pension funds, to $261 million. That's more than what is spent on libraries, parks, trash pickup and municipal courts combined.
And pension payments are only projected to increase. Next year, Dowe said, the city expects to cough up $50 million on top of its scheduled payment to the police pension thanks to a contractual trigger that requires the account to maintain a funding level of at least 80 percent.
In refinancing debt, Dowe added, past mayors put off principal payments for future leaders to pay, creating a debt bubble that now is coming due. General obligation debt payments will jump from $297 million this fiscal year to $355 million by fiscal 2018, before falling.