The Houston City Council approved a $7.3 billion fiscal year 2025 budget this week by a vote of 15-2, marking the completion of Mayor John Whitmire’s first budget cycle. 

Two council members, Edward Pollard and Tiffany Thomas, voted against the budget, citing it as not being structurally balanced and adding to the city’s growing deficit. The budget adds more money for draining and flooding projects, six new police cadet classes, five firefighter cadet classes, and no new taxes or fees.

The base budget originally presented by the mayor was $6.7 billion, but amendments offered by council members brought the total higher. The original budget had five police cadet classes, but an amendment by Councilmember Julian Ramirez added the sixth, and another Ramirez amendment added a language access coordinator to facilitate translation for non-English speaking residents. 

An amendment by Council Member Abbie Kamin added the position of an independent legal counsel for the City Council. With newly passed Proposition A giving council members the ability to place items on the agenda, Kamin argued they needed counsel independent of the mayor’s office to assist them with legislative development. 

Other amendments offered, but not included, were a requirement notification to council members when a company that has been formed for less than a year receives a contract through an emergency purchase order—which has more lenient oversight as opposed to traditional procurement—and also a prohibition on departments offering table sponsorships at events, with Councilmember Amy Peck who offered the amendment noting that in 2024 the public works department spent $50,000 on table sponsorships. 

Councilmember Fred Flickinger offered an amendment to let elected officials opt out of the pension system if they did not need it, but was preempted by state law which legal counsel said prohibits such a policy. Flickinger also had an amendment to end a requirement that for capital projects the city must spend 1.75 percent of the budgeted cost on artwork. 

While these didn’t get through, most were referred to a city council committee to be revisited later in the year. 

The budget doesn’t levy new fees or increase the tax rate, but the mayor said an audit is currently being conducted to identify areas of savings and then his office may look at levying a trash fee or lifting Houston’s local property tax cap to generate more revenue. 

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.