Mayor Parker unveils $4 billion city budget

May 12, 2010 3:34:53 PM PDT
The city has been operating deep in debt for years. On Wednesday, the mayor unveiled a new city budget that includes cuts to city operations across the board and job losses. But will it be enough?

We looked at the past six years to see how jobs have trended in the city of Houston, and the city has been increasing jobs steadily each year. That is, until this fiscal year, which will be a decline, and that has some people very worried.

When it comes to any proposed budget, this is the last thing workers want to hear.

"There are going to be job losses in this budget," Mayor Annise Parker said.

Just ask the union, which represents the thousands of employees who currently clock in at the city.

"I'm very concerned," said Melvin Hughes with the Houston Organization of Public Employees.

The organization understands that times are tough.

The city is facing a loss of $45 million in property tax revenue and nearly a $100 million budget gap.

But, the union's president believes that if jobs are to be cut, it shouldn't be on the backs of those lowest paid.

"We are the reason that the water runs and that it flows, and it don't take a whole lot of people on the top," Hughes said.

Mayor Parker says she has left those decisions up to the department heads, reiterating that her main focus wasn't cutting jobs, but rather balancing a difficult budget.

Under her plan, she's looking to save:

$15 million by possibly raising fees
$24.4 million Departmental cuts, from 3 percent for most departments, to around 1 and half for police and fire
$20 million Tapping into the city's rainy day fund
$40 million Sale of land
$22 million Consolidating department functions like fleet and IT

But she's also reminding the public it could have been worse.

"We're not having to do what a lot of cities have done, which is just slash whole sections of their workforce because they couldn't pay their bills," Parker said.

But it's the uncertainty of the jobs that will be lost that continues to raise concern.

No one seems to know exactly how many are on the line, nor at what level the cuts will be made.

"Just don't lay off...20 people with low pay when you could lay off one that would equal to them," Councilwoman Wanda Adams said.

Meanwhile, Parker pledged to continue planning ahead by developing a draft budget for FY 2012 by September so the city will have a road map to be used for improvement of efficiencies and be prepared for any contingencies. She will also continue to overhaul the pension and other post employment benefits structure.

The mayor has already laid off the city's education coordinator and eliminated the position of environmental coordinator. We are told those employees can reapply for other city jobs.

This budget still has to go through the hearing process. A final budget is due at the end of June.

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