Houston may implement hiring freeze

HOUSTON In the City Hall rotunda Wednesday, dozens of city employees gathered to make a point that they know the city's budget is stretched. Employees are actively trying to come up with ideas to save money and jobs.

"We as city employees are committed to providing ongoing quality services, saving money, and yes, making money for our city," said Jeri Talley of the Houston Employees Union.

Upstairs, council members were spending hours trying to pass the city budget. Among the many changes are to cap the total number of city employees at current levels. The mayor said this will keep the city from implementing pay cuts, and will increase productivity.

"Either we freeze or lower our pay, or we respond to more services by working harder," said Mayor Bill White.

The debate of whether to add back $14 million in police overtime funding is expected is expected to cause controversy. However, a small item of spending for diversity training in the Houston Fire Department has already the subject of debate.

"I want to make sure we don't sound disrespectful of the fire department for the work they've done, and the work they need to do," said Mike Sullivan of the Houston City Council.

The call for training stems from an ongoing debate over an alleged noose found in a firefighter's locker. In the end, out of a $2 billion budget, only $80,000 will be spent on training.

"I think this is called for, needed, and appropriate," said Melissa Noriega of the Houston City Council.

As far as city employees go, there are no plans for layoffs. Employees are forming a task force where they will offer suggestions on ways to save money and boost revenue for the city. They expect to do that for the coming months.

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