Mayor's Office Press Release

Mayor: With Eye on Cash Reserves, City Will Challenge U.S. Estimate of City Population

May 24, 2018 -- The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest population estimate for Houston is lower than anticipated and could force city government to lower its cash reserves as part of the formula imposed by the “revenue cap” adopted by voters in 2004, Mayor Sylvester Turner said today.

“Under federal rules, we will challenge the Census Bureau’s estimate, which falls below the estimate by our Planning and Development Department. The city challenged the Bureau's final Houston count for the 2010 Census and the city prevailed," the mayor said. “An accurate count of the residents of our growing city will guarantee a proper funding cushion for local government operations.”

Regardless of the outcome of the challenge, funds for regular city operations will continue to be available, the mayor assured residents. About 57 percent of the city’s budget is spent on public safety.

Based on data from July 2017, the Census Bureau estimated today that Houston had grown by 9,235 people, for a total of 2,312,717, meaning a growth rate of only 0.4% percent from July 2016.

The city Planning and Development Department estimated in January 2018 that the population had grown by 30,390 people, for a total of 2,349,993 – a 1.3% growth rate from January 2017.

The difference between the Census Bureau’s July 2017 growth rate number and City department’s January 2018 growth rate number is about 37,000 people.

The Census Bureau and the City use similar methods for developing the estimates, but the City’s count is based on greater familiarity with local indicators in addition to being 6 months more up to date, the mayor said.

However, the cap on city revenues uses Census Bureau population data as part of its formula for deciding how much money the city can collect every year in property taxes.

The lower population count would force the city to drop revenues by about $17 million, which would come from the city’s savings account known as the “fund balance.”

The fund balance would decline to 8.3 percent of annual spending, still above the desired level of 7.5 percent.

“We balance the budget every year and run a lean government operation, always mindful that we must use the people's money in the most effective and efficient way,” Mayor Turner said. “Part of our budget-hawking approach involves making sure we have a healthy cash reserve in case of emergencies."

“The city’s challenge of the Census Bureau estimate is necessary for accuracy as well as the highest possible level of financial health for City Hall and the people we serve," he said.