Saturday, January 25, 2014

BULLETIN: Carroll G Robinson says Houston Finances Need More Than Pension Reform in a recent Op-Ed sent to Houston Dallas Fort Worth Business Connections Magazine

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Houston Finances Need More Than Pension Reform 
By Carroll G. Robinson* 

The biggest financial challenge confronting our city is not pension reform, it is Modernizing City Government through the use of technology and modern supply chain logistics to reduce the cost of delivering core city services while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of city government.

Houston needs leaders who truly understand this financial reality.

According to the City’s own Long Range Financial Management Task Force Reports, the city’s top three General Fund expenses are Salaries, Operating Expenses and Interest payments on the General Operating (GO) Debt.

Pension payments are the fourth largest General Fund expense and Health Care Benefits are fifth.

In addition to Modernizing City Government to reduce its operating expenses, Houston also needs a Strategic Business Plan for increasing General Fund Revenues–sales and property taxes–without the need for raising the City’s property tax rate or creating more new city fees.

In fact, the current fees for small businesses to do business in Houston should be consolidated and reduced.

We need to attract more businesses, entrepreneurs, jobs and employees into our city and not just into our region or out in the county. Doing so is the foundation for generating more General Fund Revenue for the city to be able to pay all of its bills now and in the years ahead.

Houston must also generate more Investment Income off the General Fund cash flow, Fund Balance and Rainy Day Fund Balance.

Houston needs more college graduates living inside the city and more affordable workforce housing throughout the city.

More college graduates living inside the city will help increase the average income inside the city, which will help boost sales tax revenue to the city.

More affordable workforce housing throughout the city will mean more intellectual capital, innovation and creativity inside of our city.

All of which will help grow and sustain our economy and help generate more General Fund Revenue for the city.

To increase the city’s sales and property tax revenue, we must also attract more development and construction inside the city while respecting and protecting our neighborhoods and the environment. We must also fix the potholes in our streets and use new and more innovative infrastructure technology to prevent and fix breaks in the city’s water pipes.

Our neighborhoods and their residents are the heart of our city. Our neighborhoods must be safe, clean, healthy, and prosperous places for all Houstonians to live, work, build a business; raise a family and worship.

To attract more sales tax revenue to Houston, the city should support legalizing gaming in Texas. We should also extend light rail to Hobby Airport, establish Bus Rapid Transit from downtown to Bush Intercontinental Airport move forward on establishing the South Main Innovation Zone and secure construction of a convention hotel in the Astrodome/Reliant Stadium area to help support the Rodeo, Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) and our community continuing to attract major sporting and convention events.

Houston is a world class international city and someday we should host a Summer Olympic Games.

Doing all these things will help generate more General Fund Revenue for our city.

If all Houstonians have “An Opportunity to Do Better” and we work together to “Make Houston Greater” and make these the foundation and goal of a Strategic Business Plan for our city, Houston will generate all the General Fund Revenue needed to pay all of its bills.

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*Carroll G. Robinson is a former At‐Large Houston City Council Member. He is an Associate Professor at Texas Southern University, a Citizen Member of the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund and served on the Advisory Board of K9s4COPS. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities and the Houston--‐Galveston Area Council (H-GAC).