Mayor Annise Parker says civilian employees will have to take one unpaid day off every month for the next six months. The mandatory furloughs will not apply to police, firefighters or workers who make less than $24,000 a year. Parker says it was a difficult decision, but the furloughs will shave $5 million off the $13 million budget deficit.
Mayor Annise Parker announces mandatory furloughs, flanked by HOPE union president Melvin Hughes and Councilwoman Brenda Stardig.
“This is one tool, it’s a tool that I’ve been reluctant to use. I believe a furlough punishes people who are doing good work. If we can operate on fewer people, we need to figure out which people we don’t need and move through that process. We’ve reduced head count across the city.”
The city has already laid off 400 workers permanently and plans to cut another 100 positions in January.
Melvin Hughes is president of the union that represents civilian workers. He stood by the mayor’s side during the announcement.
“A lot of folks didn’t think that city employees would stand up and bite the bullet but we did. We did because this city belongs to us too, we live here, we pay taxes. And we realize the city has a great debt, and we’re gonna help them take care of it.”
Council member Mike Sullivan is skeptical that the furloughs will help much, and he called them a “band-aid” solution.
“The furloughs, you know, good idea it’s just not going to amount to the degree of cuts that need to be done. We’ve known for months that we’ve had this deficit coming, and it’s being whittled down slowly but in the wrong areas.”
Sullivan wants deeper cuts and a spending freeze, but Parker says the city is slowly but steadily on track to eliminate the budget deficit by this summer.