Minnix Helped Secure Key Maintenance Funds
Part 2 of a 5-part article profiling the leadership and style of Scott Minnix, Houston’s director of General Services Department
Minnix counts the facility assessment and facility master plan as two of his main achievements since coming to Houston five years ago. But his long-term approach has produced other wins. In 2014, working closely with the mayor and a key council member, Minnix helped to create a line item in the city’s budget to address maintenance, renewal, and repair (MRR) of municipal buildings. These funds sit outside the General Services Department’s operating budget. “By getting these MRR funds, we’re able to slow the rate of the deferred maintenance growth,” says Minnix. “We’re not eliminating the deferred maintenance, but we’re slowing it down.”
The fund is split among the different municipal facility types, with the police, fire, parks, and so forth each having a discrete slice. For example, general government, which covers municipal courthouses and City Hall, has $2 million allocated in the current fiscal year for deferred maintenance. Last fiscal year, it was $1.2 million. In addition to being a practical boon in helping to fill in the gaping backlog of deferred maintenance, Minnix values the MRR fund for how it symbolizes the city’s commitment to improving its municipal structures. “It’s the point of the spear, saying this is what we’re going to do,” he says.
One might think that in a city growing as quickly as Houston is, finding money for city facilities would not be too large a hurdle. “My desk overlooks highway 45 and 59; I’m downtown,” Minnix says. “When I came here in 2011, there wasn’t one crane in the sky. We’re very flat and you could look 360 degrees and not see any cranes. As I look out right now I can probably count 11. So it’s definitely growing.”
Houston is constrained, however, by a city budget cap, which puts a hard ceiling on the amount of revenue it can bring in from its growing population. And like many other cities, it is currently dealing with a looming pension crisis. Minnix is acutely aware that his budget is a public trust and every dollar must go to the greatest good. “In the end, we have to be very good stewards of the public trust,” he says. “That is paramount. People don’t want to pay more taxes, and they want to know that the money they do pay is used efficiently and in the right way.”