Houston Mayor Annise Parker released this month an interactive budget balancing tool on her personal website, giving citizens a chance to see if they can close the city's $130 million deficit.
(The site is hosted on Parker's personal domain, and the site's footer notes this was not built using taxpayer's dollars.)
Users can use sliders to choose how much from each department they would cut. Each department, such as police, fire and solid waste, comes with a description detailing what services it is responsible for, and the average salary for a classified employee in that department.
They can also choose to raise the property tax rate, include higher revenue projections due to a rebounding economy or offload assets such as unneeded city-owned lands.
Once a user finishes their plan, they are prompted to share their proposal via the usual social networking options, or just with a link. (To view my effort, click here.)
The interactive also can be used to visualize Parker's proposal to close the deficit.
You may remember the Tribune doing something similar with statewide budget cuts with our close the budget shortfall interactive released back in April.
Parker's introduction follows:
Dear Fellow Houstonians,
A tight budget is like a corset - it holds in some things and emphasizes others! My proposal closes our $130 million deficit and protects public safety, streamlines essential services, cuts waste - and does not raise property taxes.
You can use the tools on this site to try your hand at closing our budget shortfall. More information, including a complete copy of the proposed budget, is available on the city’s Fiscal Responsibility Web Page.
As Houstonians, we make the hard decisions together. We will debate, question, explain, propose, amend and adjust our priorities - and come together to pass a budget by June 30. What would you do?