City of Houston experiencing budget woes

November 8, 2010 3:53:58 PM PST
Houston is in dire straits. The city is millions of dollars in debt and about to lose those red light cameras which have been a significant source of funding for the police department. So what's next for the city? Job losses? Furloughs? Tax hikes?

Firefighters will stay on the job and so will police officers. But if you're a city worker who picks up the trash or fixes the streets, a one day a month furlough is a very real possibility come January 1.

"Some things I don't like what I see it just so happens our lower civilian employees and they're getting the stick compared to higher level employee," said Houston City Council Member Wanda Adams.

She may not be happy, but the numbers are startling. According to the city controller, the city is currently $9.6 million over budget, and on track for $50-$80 million budget gap by the end of the fiscal year, if no additional cuts are implemented.

The city passed a budget back in July, and apparently hasn't gotten any of the savings four months later.

"Well, yea, you heard it, and the city council passed that budget," said Houston City Controller Ronald Green.

Among the many cost savings underway are a consolidation of fleet, fuels, and parts; a hiring freeze; and the possibility of one day a month furloughs for non-classified employees.

The furloughs could save $6 million if it starts next January.

"My assumptions are based on every employee on the city. If we don't have every employee going on a furlough, we won't realize these savings," said Michelle Mitchell, Houston Director of Finance.

The city's finance director says neither firefighters nor police officers should be furloughed because it would cost more in overtime to cover their shifts.


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