More community services may face budget ax
HOUSTON But the cuts could go much farther than just your neighborhood park. Libraries, city pools and summer programs could also take hits. Lots of kids and families were out at parks on Friday afternoon, and when the summer rolls around, it's likely a lot more children will need the city services, services that may no longer be available. At the Historic Heights Library, Jennifer Alessi's already frustrated that it's no longer open on Saturdays because of budget cuts. But now she worries the hours could be trimmed even more. "It's sad because many people rely on the library, but I'm not surprised by it," she said. Like every city department, the library system is looking to slash its budget, which means there's a very real possibility that some branches will have to close. It's a big concern for Houston Councilman Ed Gonzalez. "As a former Houston police officer, I know that many of these community centers are really the last line of defense between a child staying actively engaged and maybe going down the wrong path, so I'm very concerned," he said. And it's not just libraries. The parks department operates 38 pools around the city, and it's a good bet not all will open as scheduled this summer. "If you cut down and you close some of these parks, you're going to have more problems," park user Charles Davis said. Nobody knows which pools will reopen during the summer and which will remain closed. That's the difficult part, knowing there's going to be cuts, just not where. "You can't financially support them all. I'm looking for a plan that's equitable," Houston City Councilman James Rodriguez said. Summer programs that kids depend on are also on the table. We expect specific recommendations to emerge next week, and it's no one's expecting good news. "It's not shocking. I'm expecting probably more will happen," Alessi said. We expect that by next week, the city parks department, the library system and the mayor's officers will give more specifics. None of these entities wanted to talk to us about the bad news of cutting pools or projects today, but it's a safe bet. We've got 38 pools and when summer comes around and everyone wants to use them, we probably won't have all of them available.