MAIN PAY RAISES Three areas of the city of Houston’s scal year 2022-23 budget are seeing the biggest salary increases.
MUNICIPAL COURT SALARIES
Plan: pay increase of 18% over three years
Plan: pay increase of 10.5% over three years
Plan: pay increase of 9% over three years
Eective: July 1, 2022
Eective: July 1, 2022
Eective: Oct. 1, 2021
2020-21 base pay:
2021-22 base pay:
2020-21 average pay:
18% base pay increase
10.5% base pay increase
2023-24 base pay:
2024-25 base pay:
2023-24 average pay:
base pay increase
~$61,000* *ROUGH ESTIMATE BASED ON PERCENT INCREASE
SOURCE: CITY OF HOUSTON COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
What are these funds used for? The ARPA helps governments respond to COVID-19 emergencies and replaces lost revenue.
How much is being allocated? ARPA funds for scal year 2022-23: $160M Some money is being put toward: • One Safe Houston • protecting salaries of rst responders • addressing revenue reduction
The city of Houston has signaled it
INVESTMENTS INTO WASTE MANAGEMENT
plans to use one-time American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for reghter raises.
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The city is using roughly $160 mil- lion in one-time federal coronavirus relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, a program meant to provide cities with funding to plug holes caused by revenue losses during the pandemic. During a June 1 meet- ing, District C Council Member Abbie Kamin said the city is under unsustain- able nancial constraints. City depart- ments, such as re, police and solid waste, need more money, she said. Kamin said the city needs to have a serious conversation about the con- straints of the a revenue cap, which was approved by voters in 2004 and limits property tax revenue growth based on ination and population growth. “Whether it’s revisiting the public safety exception to ensure those dol- lars are coming in or lifting the cap in its entirety, we’re going to have to deal with this head on to ensure we continue to have a scally sound ... budget,” she said in an email. At the June 1 meeting, the Houston City Council discussed 106 proposed amendments to the FY 2022-23 bud- get, which ranged from new oce chairs for council to hazard pay for re- ghters. Ultimately, 16 amendments passed, a reection of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s stated intention to only allow amendments that came with a specic plan for how they would be funded. Among the areas to get the most attention was the Houston Solid Waste Management Department, which has received a number of complaints in the Heights and Washington corridor the past year due to lack of reliability. Budget breakdown The city’s $5.7 billion budget included an increase of $487 million in expenses. In the city’s $2.7 billion general fund budget—which pro- vides funding for departments related to public safety and administrative
Although the Houston Solid Waste Management Department was given more money than ever, Director Mark Wilfalk said it is still seeing issues with competitors paying truck drivers more than the city is oering.
services, among other areas—spending increased by $102 million from the pre- vious year. The increase can be attributed in part to the 6% pay raise for reght- ers, a 4% raise for police ocers and a 3% raise for municipal employees. Pay raises of 10.5% have been approved for the next three years for police ocers, Turner said. Municipal employee and reghter increases started last year and will add up to about 9% and 18%, respectively by FY 2023-24. Douglas Grith, president of the Houston Police Ocers’ Union, said union members are appreciative of the money, but police recruitment is still an issue. “We are greatly appreciative of the contract we received and believe it will help with retention of younger ocers, but our retirements are still up, and recruiting is down,” Grith said. Meanwhile, the reghter pay raises will be paid with ARPA funding, which was supposed to be used as a one-time bonus, said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professionals Fire Fighters Association. He said the pay raise does not solve the overall prob- lem. Resources are lower while calls for service are higher than ever, he said. In 2021, the Houston Fire Department had 3,604 reghters and received 344,381 calls; in 2010, the HFD had 3,940 re- ghters and received 270,427 calls, Lancton said. “We are nearly 500 reghters short and are spread beyond razor thin,” Lancton said. A proposed amendment by at-large Council Member Letitia Plummer that would have given all reghters a one- time hazard pay allocation of $3,000
was shot down by Turner due to city charter rules that prohibit council from dictating where a city department spends its funds. Both Lancton and Plummer spoke of low morale within the department. “Many cities across the nation intro- duced hazard pay to acknowledge the great work of these front-line workers,” Plummer said in an email. “For me it was a small gesture to thank them for their work and to provide an incentive During a June 16 Super Neighbor- hood No. 22 meeting, SWMD Director Mark Wilfalk said the department is responsible for 434,000 residences. It provides services such as curbside collection of garbage and recycling, monthly tree and junk waste, weekly residential yard waste and recycling drop-o facilities for multifamily units. For FY 2022-23, the budget for this department is about $99.8 million, which is the most the department has ever received. Houston is one of the only municipalities in the nation that does not have a fee for solid waste ser- vices, so as the city grows, resources only stretch so far, Wilfalk said. A lot of the issues with waste not get- ting picked up can be tied to a lack of truck drivers, he said, and competition with other companies has played a role. Through a passed amendment from District I Council Member Robert Gal- legos, the city will study and determine a new waste program, which could involve a fee for new homes. The department will report on the ndings to the Houston Quality of Life Committee, which is chaired by for them to stay with us.” Solid waste management
FY 2020-21 actual
FY 2021-22 estimate
FY 2022-23 projected
LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENTS Two budget amendments call for studying ways to improve solid waste service in the city:
Cost study: determine a cost to establish new residential waste service and recommend a fee for new homes to recover the cost to the city Program review: will determine if a reimagined on-demand service would be cost eective, reliable and sustainable
Gallegos, in November. “We must look at how we can recoup costs and provide more funding to right-size the department to meet the growing demand, and that is what my amendments intended to do,” he said. With the amendments passed, Wil- falk said Turner is moving the SWMD in the right direction. He said if a fee does not happen with the current adminis- tration, then he believes Turner posi- tioned them correctly for the next administration to bring this to fruition. “I think we will get there,” Wilfalk said. “We need to get there.”
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION • JULY 2022
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