HOUSTON --The Mayor's Office says today marks the start of departmental layoffs in order to balance the city budget. Layoff notices will be sent out to city employees beginning Thursday. The Mayor's Office says the current plan calls for departments to issue layoff notices between now and May 17. The layoffs had been expected because of a huge budget shortfall. The Mayor's Office released information Thursday which read in part: "We have known this day was coming for weeks, but that doesn't make it any easier. These are very tough decisions for everyone involved because we know that lives are being impacted -- that people are losing their livelihoods due to no fault of their own. Unfortunately, we have to make these tough decisions so that we can move this great city through the tough times." We're told employees will remain on the payroll until July 1, when the fiscal year ends. The Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE) says it will appeal every case with merit and will work with its members during the transition. The Mayor's Office says the layoffs today were relatively small -- 14 from General Services Department and four from Municipal Courts. When the budget issues and layoffs were first discussed in March we heard it could be as high as 2,300 jobs. Some departments had to cut their budget by up to 27 percent. The Mayor's Office says the goal is to avoid layoffs in public safety, but both fire and police departments are not expected to be completely immune from the cuts. HPD Chief Charles McClelland has said that he wants to cut administrative positions and not classified officers on the street. The budget will be released to City Council on May 18. Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.