Commissioners weigh keeping hiring freeze and tax rate

HOUSTON Jennifer Trammell knows what she likes to see more of in her east Harris County neighborhood.

"I think everybody wants to have more people patrol. Then what they do, don't cut back, the crime is so bad, it's just getting worse," said Trammell.

But Trammell and Harris County residents will be seeing less, not more deputies on the streets. Since a county-wide hiring freeze a few months ago, the sheriff's department's 370 vacancies have gone unfilled, including 75 patrol deputies.

"When you don't have employees to go out and carry out functions, it gets tough, and at a certain point, public safety can be compromised," said Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

The sheriff isn't the only one worried. A slew of county leaders went before Harris county commissioners Tuesday, pleading for a thaw in the hiring freeze. However, County Commissioner Jerry Eversole says the only solution may be a tax hike.

"But you're absolutely wasting time if you think we can maintain this budget without a tax increase," Eversole said.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett disagreed, saying he believes the county can cut more.

"We may have to look at the sacred cows, things like car allowances," Emmett said.

While the county will look at a number of cost cutting measures, Eversole's tax hike talk for now got no support from other commissioners.

But for people like Trammell, a little money for more deputies would make her feel safer.

"They can, they just want to divert the money somewhere else, I guess," Trammell said.

For now, the sheriff said he will continue to use overtime to plug holes in the schedule.

Commissioner Eversole also suggested the county should close some parks one day a week. County commissioners are meeting again in two weeks to discuss the budget cuts and we'll be sure to let you know what happens.

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