Budget woes and furry toes; City Hall boosts animal bureau.
By Annise D. Parker
The air bristled with discussions of declining city revenues and BARC. While most elected officials tried to focus on the growing budget shortfall I’ve discussed for a year, they had to make time for the record e-mails and clogged fax machines prompted by the hiring of a turnaround expert to finally fix BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care).
While Houston’s booming economy had created a generous budget reserve, the national recession is finally hitting Houston. We’re still in much better shape than other large cities. But our reserves are dwindling, and falling property and sales taxes are forcing cuts in this year’s budget. The FY 2011 budget, which will be approved next summer, will be even tighter. Here’s the dilemma: property and sales tax will either drop more or remain flat. They make up about 75 percent of the general fund budget. But the city faces rising fixed expenses: more for employee health insurance and raises built into contracts with police, fire, and municipal employees. It will be an incredibly challenging job to balance that budget, but it certainly can be done without cutting core city services.
By almost all accounts, BARC turnaround expert Gerry Fusco is doing an outstanding job of reorganizing the long-troubled agency and moving it along the path of a solid business plan to increase adoptions and reduce euthanasia.
BARC offers by far the city’s cheapest adoptions, only $55. You can adopt a wonderful dog or cat for only $27.50 during Wags to Whiskers events the second Sunday and third Saturday of each month (noon to 4 p.m. at BARC, 3200 Carr, 713/229-7300 or www.houstontx.gov/barc/index.html). Six-year-old dogs and cats are free to anyone 55 or older. Like other shelters, BARC offers many full-breed animals if that’s what you desire. Photos of adoptable animals are available on the BARC webpage. Volunteers are always needed to walk and socialize the dogs, in part to make them more adoptable. Just visit some weekend, and a volunteer will show you the ropes. You will be rewarded with happy dog faces and wagging tails.
A candidate for Houston’s mayor in the November 3 election, Annise D. Parker is Houston’s third-term city controller and one of the highest-ranking openly LGBT-elected municipal officials in the U.S. Her webpage is AnniseParker.com. To receive the controller’s newsletter, send an e-mail to [email protected].