Finance Department

City of Houston Sees Savings from LED Streetlights

In June 2014 the City of Houston and CenterPoint agreed to switch traditional streetlights in the City of Houston to LED lights. Two years have passed since the agreement was signed, and Houstonians have begun to notice the new LED streetlights. Taxpayers are also seeing savings in the General Fund thanks to this conversion effort.

With approximately half of the streetlights replaced in the last two years, our team was curious what the savings impact had been to date. By our estimates, nearly $900,000 has been saved through the bill period ending June 7, 2016. While the agreement was signed in June 2014, the conversion did not start until January 2015 after all the needed approvals were gathered. The first LED lights appeared on the City’s light bill in March 2015. You can check out the savings over time in the chart below.

How do savings work? The City does not own the streetlights and does not incur the capital cost of replacing the lightbulbs; instead, this duty falls to CenterPoint. The City does, however, pay for most of the operational costs associated with street lighting. The money to pay the electricity bill for streetlights ultimately comes from the General Fund – which is the City’s main governmental fund and is funded by taxpayer dollars.

When traditional streetlights are switched out for LED lightbulbs the number of kilowatts per hour (KWH) consumed decreases substantially. Not pictured on the chart below, the City has also saved approximately 19 million KWHs in the 16 months since the first LED streetlights appeared on our bill. This decrease in KWHs leads to a decrease in the electricity bill for the City. When the conversion is fully completed, the City estimates it will save between $2.5 million to $3.0 million a year compared to traditional lightbulbs (depending upon the price of energy).


LED Savings as of June 07, 2016

Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

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Budget Bootcamp and Open Data Updated for FY2017 Proposed Budget

This week marks the release of Mayor Turner’s proposed Annual Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2017. To assist end-users in their analysis of the proposed budget, the City provides detailed budgetary information in our online Budget Bootcamp tool at http://performance.houstontx.gov/budgetbootcamp and also on the interim Open Data Portal at http://data.ohouston.org/dataset/city-of-houston-fiscal-year-adopted-operating-budgets. Both of these resources have been updated to include information for this upcoming year's proposed budget. The official proposed budget and past adopted budgets can also be found online at http://houstontx.gov/budget/.

Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

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Early Payment Discounts Save City Money on Procurements

The City of Houston procures goods and services from thousands of vendors each year. State law requires the City to pay invoices for these goods and services within 30 days of receipt of goods/services or receipt of invoice, whichever is later. This model of purchasing on account or credit is common in government and larger private sector companies. The City's tradition of paying net 30 (paying within 30 days) provides a balance of allowing the City ample time to verify and process the invoice while also ensuring the vendor receives payment within a reasonable amount of time.

Discount Transit Fare Savings

Over 1,300 City of Houston employees receive monthly stipends for their commute to work on Metro buses. In our continuous search for savings, we wanted to know how many of these employees were eligible for senior discount fares offered by Metro, but were not currently receiving the discount. Metro offers 50% off fare for seniors over 65, and free rides to anyone over 70. Although local fares are only $1.25 each way, riders are charged more the further they travel, and commutes to Zone 4 are $4.50 a ride.

The audit found 55 City employees over 65 and 10 riders over 70 were paying full fares for their commute. By switching out their full fare transit cards to a discounted card, and moving those over 70 to a Freedom card (free rides), the City will save approximately $46k this year from transit discounts.

Metro Fare Zones

The Transit Office now plans to flag soon-to-be 65 year old riders in their system one month in advance of their eligibility so they have time to prepare their discounted fare cards - delivering a discounted transit card just in time for their birthday.

This is just another example of how we are stretching the value of every tax dollar!

Mimi Xi is a Senior Staff Analyst at the City of Houston.

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Mapping the City of Houston's Electricity Usage Over Time

Last month, the Mayor's Office of Sustainability released, "...energy use data for all municipal facilities that are larger than 25,000 square feet," to highlight a nationwide energy usage benchmarking exercise the City is participating in through the Houston City Energy Project. You can read more about the project and find links to the data here.

After seeing the post, our group was a buzz about using the electricity billing data available on the Open Data Portal to create a time-lapsed viz of electricity usage for all City assets - not just those above 25,000 square feet. Check out the results below (keep reading after the animated GIF to play with an interactive version of the viz):
City of Houston Energy Usage FY12-FY14 time-lapse

Click on the image to get the full sized animated GIF.

Using the interactive visualization below, a user can hover over points to see their address, the department responsibility for the facility, and see the energy usage. When a user clicks on a point, they can also see the energy usage and billing trends below the map. The map displays about 98% of City of Houston assets that consume electricity (but for unmetered street lights). Many of the small green dots with low usage are traffic control boxes, water pumps, and other like assets. A note on billing: there were some delays in November 2013 and February 2014 billings on some facilities, which caused some dips and spikes on the citywide trends (but, it shouldn't impact most individual facility trends).

Let us know what asset has the most interesting energy usage trend. So far the winner is the seasonality of energy usage at 18401 John F. Kennedy Blvd (a Bush Intercontinental Airport facility).

Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

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Milestone on Lean Six Sigma Training: Over 1,000 City of Houston Employees Trained

In December 2012, the City of Houston embarked on a journey of continuous improvement by creating a Lean Six Sigma program to train employees and improve City performance. Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement methodology typically used in the manufacturing sector to deliver high quality goods or service as efficiently as possible. The goal is simple: combine Six Sigma's focus on eliminating defects with Lean's focus on continuous flow, voice of the customer, and continuous improvement in order to make business processes better, faster, and cheaper.

FIN - Paving Lien Processing

Project Summary: Decreased the cycle time for processing outstanding paving lien requests by 75% (or, approximately 4 hours).

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Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a customer centric way of thinking and problem solving that seeks to continually identify and eliminate waste.

Revisiting Q3 Performance Insight’s Quarterly Highlight: EMS Collections

In the 2014-Q3 Performance Insight Report, EMS Collections were highlighted. With the close of the 3rd quarter, Performance Insight reported that EMS collections were on track to meet or exceed budget. With the close of the 4th quarter, the Finance Department is pleased to provided unaudited numbers that show EMS Collections exceeded budgeted estimated by 7%, resulting in an additional $2.26 million in EMS Collections revenues.

Mayor Parker Unveils FY 2015 Budget Proposal/ Begins Discussion of Future Fiscal Solutions

Today, Mayor Parker Unveiled the FY 2015 Budget Proposal. You can read more about the FY15 Proposed Annual Operating Budget here. To correspond with the release of the Mayor's Proposed Annual Operating Budget, we have updated Budget Bootcamp and our Open Data Resources. Let us know your thoughts.

Frank C. Bracco is a Senior Staff Analyst for the City of Houston Finance Department and is a member of the Performance Improvement Division. Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from the University of Florida and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

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Budget Bootcamp Insights: FY14 General Fund Personnel Expenditures

When the Finance Department released Budget Bootcamp as its first implemented Hackathon project, we hoped citizens would be able to better visualize and understand the City of Houston's annual operating costs. Each year, the Administration presents its proposed operating budget to City Council for review, amendments, and eventual adoption. The end result of this multi-month process is two thick budget books totaling over 900 pages in length. Budget Bootcamp attempts to condense these pages into interactive visualizations that better help explain portions of the budget and focus conversation around facts. In this case: we're going to take a look at budgeted Personnel Expenditures in the General Fund for FY14.

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