Mayor Turner: We can balance the budget with "minimal layoffs"

Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered good news for city workers who have been worried about layoffs.

HOUSTON - Mayor Turner delivered good news for city workers who have been worried about layoffs.

Houston still has a $123 million budget shortfall, even with the state helping fix the pension problem. However, the mayor says there will be "minimal layoffs."

Firefighters and some police have been worrying about losing their jobs but the mayor assured them Tuesday that that will not be the case. However, overtime will be scaled back to help balance the budget.

"We've increased staffing, full time staffing for the fire department, so there's less of a need for overtime," said Kelly Dowd, the Director of Finance for the City of Houston. "The police department has indicated that citizens won't feel an effect from those cuts."

This year, the number of new police cadet classes will drop from 5 to 4. But across all departments, the mayor expects fewer than 10 layoffs, which he thinks can happen by not filling open jobs. 

"We don't expect any service cuts because essentially we're talking about positions, about 60 positions, that have been vacant, that we are simply eliminating," said Turner. 

Second, Turner said you won't notice any drop in service when it comes to things like filling potholes, or other infrastructure repair. 

But because money's so tight, the city says don't expect a big boost in response time either.

Finally, the mayor said what happens in Houston this next year really depends on what happens in Austin in the coming weeks.

The bill to eliminate the city's $8 billion plus in pension debt has a couple of more steps before it hits the governor's desk. The mayor said if lawmakers don't take out last-minute amendments that benefit firefighters, it could cost the city big.

"The intention for the Houston pension solution was to reduce our cost, not to add to our cost. His amendment will add to our cost by 27 million," said Turner. 

City officials admit there's a lot this budget leaves out, such as upgrading vehicles for police, fire, and solid waste.

The mayor said he's hopeful voters will lift the revenue cap in November to give them millions more to work with next year.

 

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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