Some Harris County workers face pink slips

January 21, 2011 3:54:03 PM PST
You've heard a lot recently about cuts in state funding for schools, the city of Houston is implementing furloughs to tackle a massive budget deficit and Harris County also trying to overcome a shortfall. It seems money is tight everywhere you turn. We first told you last summer that the county was laying off workers as it tightens its spending. Now as departments struggle to meet those cuts, more county workers are getting pink slips.

Late last year the Harris County Budget Office told every county department to cut 10 percent across the board. Now some departments are having to lay off people while others are reducing their hours.

Precinct 7 Constable May Walker and her staff are crunching the numbers, trying to cut next year's budget by $750,000. The only way to avoid layoffs is one day a week furloughs.

Constable Walker said, "I'm reducing some of my officers to a four day work week, 32 hours per week, to eliminate cutting positions."

Constable Victor Trevino faced a similar Selma in his precinct. He was luckier -- no layoffs. But there is no longer a budget for cars, new radios, even new uniforms.

"I'm telling folks, 'If you have to bring your own plunger, bring your own plunger,'" Constable Trevino said. "We're cutting maintenance. I'd rather cut that than cut salaries, or lay off employees."

The county's budget won't be final until March, so any layoffs or furloughs are only preliminary. The county's chief budget man, Dick Raycraft, says it's up to each department to determine how to make the cuts. He says there's no way of knowing yet how many jobs may be lost.

At the tax assessor's office five middle managers have lost their jobs and more could come in the next few months.

"I'm eliminating a layer of management," explained Harris County Tax Assessor Don Summers.

The tax assessor says he expects to lay off 25 people in his department. Last year, the county health department laid off more than 50 people. And recently, the county's architecture and engineering department laid off 14.