HPD, Mayor Parker detail plan to save jobs
HOUSTON The city had already made an agreement back in January that would avert police officers' job loss. But the city didn't have enough cash to save the jobs of jailers, which was an issue. "We still needed to make sure that we preserved the jobs of the jailers and that would be 273 jailers because those jailers would have to replaced by police officers," Parker said. But at a press conference today, Mayor Parker announced the city and the Houston Police Officers Pension Board reached an agreement that would prevent that situation from happening. "We have reached an agreement with the Houston Police Officers Pension Board to allow a deferral of payments -- $17 million in this fiscal year and $8.5 million in the next fiscal year -- to bridge the downturn in this economy," Parker said. They city will have until 2015 to repay the pension fund the money it owes, plus interest. The also has to use Houston Police Department's building in downtown as collateral. However, Parker said the agreement won't be costing the city anything and will actually help police officers. "The interest that will be accrued will go right back to the Houston Police Officers Pension ... and we will continue to fund that in the future," Parker said. The Houston Police Officers Pension provides officers and their families benefits upon retirements. "It's a win, win," Parker said. "Other than those potential employees that were planning to be laid off, I'm probably the happiest employee at HPD. It certainly made my job a lot easier to have more resources to keep this city safe," Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland added. The Houston Police Officers Pension already has signed off on the deal, but Houston council members will have to agree to this arrangement, which will be discussed during the City Council meeting Thursday. The announcement comes one day after the city of Houston and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association negotiated a tentative deal that would also spare the jobs of 238 firefighters who had been given notices of potential layoff. The deal includes a no-layoff guarantee in the first year and wage freezes for the first two years, following by a 1 percent raise in the third year that's dependent on the city's financial status. The city is facing a major budget shortfall that could be as much as $75 million. Departments citywide already have laid off more than 700 civilian employees and cuts to some city services already have been approved. There are more budget cuts coming down the road. Mayor Parker is slated to announce the city's new budget on Thursday, and we expect not-so-comfortable situations for the city, including possible reduction of library hours and public pool closures.