HOUSTON (KTRK) --We ran into Mark and Elena Hernandez with their parents at the downtown library Friday. Needless to say, the children were really excited about the movies they picked out, and their parents were eager to oblige.
"They always ask us, 'Let's go to the library today,'" said dad Mark Hernandez. "If it's cut, it will let them down and a whole lot of other kids."
Mayor Sylvester Turner had good news on this Friday for fans of libraries and city parks. Despite a possible $160 million budget shortfall, parks and libraries are not on the chopping block. Neither are police officers.
"I will not lay off police officers, I will not lay off civilians within the police department, because they would be back-filled by police officers," said the Mayor. "We need more officers on the streets."
But to make ends meet, there will be pain. Turner says he plans to permanently eliminate 54 current vacant positions. In addition, he plans to lay off around 40 full time city employees from various departments. In addition, every department's budget could see a 5 to 7 percent decrease. Sources say some of the Mayor's executive staff who are holdovers from Mayor Annise Parker's tenure may also see pay reductions.
Still, the proposed layoffs and cuts are much smaller than many expected. Former Mayor Parker, for example, laid off more than 700 people five years ago. Council member Jack Christie says the tighter budget is long overdue.
"We should have planned for this four years ago, but have to do it now," said Christie, who is leading the city's finance committee. "I don't think we'll have the problem of getting a majority of votes, on a lean and mean budget."
Mayor Turner would not specify which department will get the brunt of the layoffs. However, he does say if council members don't agree with his budget cuts, the layoff numbers could go up.
"If there are any changes that reduces the shared sacrifice, that is embedded within the budget that I will propose, the layoffs with exponentially increase," he said.
Turner says he expects to present a full budget no later than April 15.