Mayor to announce mandatory furloughs

HOUSTON On a dreary, rain-soaked Wednesday, city employees we talked to say they are already prepared for the bad news, that mandatory furloughs are just around the corner.

"We were already prepared for it, but some people are not prepared for it, especially with the holidays, they have kids and all this stuff," said city employee Jessica Vielma. "I have kids, so it's hard."

During a news conference on Thursday morning, Houston Mayor Annise Parker will announce the details of her furlough plan that will affect every civilian city employee making more than $10 an hour.

Controller Ronald Green says he expects a one day a month furlough as a starting point.

"Obviously, if you furlough all the people eligible, you can save about a million a month and that's based on one day a month. So as we go forward with the rest of the fiscal year, if we need to do more, I think the mayor will make that decision," he said.

The head of the city's employees union says he has little choice but to go along with the plan.

"We're trying to save our jobs," said Melvin Hughes, president of the Hope Employees Union. "We are going to do whatever we have to do to save our jobs, and I believe all city employees, we all did what we could."

Besides furloughs, the city is trying to bridge the budget gap by selling surplus property and vacancies are going unfilled across the city. But council members we talked to say that's still not going to save enough money.

"I think there is a lot of other things we have to do in addition to furloughs," said Houston Councilmember Stephen Costello. "I think furloughs aren't going to be the total solution, and I believe the mayor believes that also."

Everyone in the city is trying to avoid large-scale layoffs. That, for now, has not been talked about, but we expect the mayor to address that Thursday.

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