Houston Mayor John Whitmire rolled out his first city budget this week, calling it a bridge to 2026 and promising it will not raise taxes or reduce services. 

The $6.7 billion budget, up 7 percent from 2024’s budget, closes a projected $160 million shortfall by drawing down on one-time federal relief aid that the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act. Sixty-eight percent of the budget’s general fund expenditures goes strictly to fund public safety—police and fire—and includes funding for five police and five firefighter cadet classes.

While he initially called for all departments to identify across-the-board cuts, he did not go with those, instead finding $11 million in other departmental reductions. Whitmire also said he has been in talks with state leaders to get more funding from the state to help the city stabilize its finances.

While the accompanying budget letter indicates both could still be on the table down the road, the budget did not include new fees or higher taxes.

We are actively working on new recurring revenues and further cost-saving initiatives that will be implemented during the fiscal year … Together with implementing recurring revenues going forward, we will continue to look across the city to realize the efficiencies in operations.

Whitmire and Houston Finance Director Melissa Dubowski stressed the city has three financial limitations that other cities don’t face: a local voter-imposed property tax cap (along with a state-imposed one), no garbage fee, and no revenue from city-owned utilities. 

Budget workshops begin this week, and the city council must approve a budget before July 1, the start of Fiscal Year 2025. 

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.