Hundreds More City Layoffs Looming

More than three hundred city employees have received layoff notices and hundreds more will follow this week and next. As Laurie Johnson reports — Houston Mayor Annise Parker must present a balanced budget to city council next week.

May 19th is the mayor’s deadline to present her budget to city councilmembers. That means she has a week left to close the city’s $75 million gap.

“We’re not going to be able to make up $75 million. Can I shave that $75 million maybe down to $50 million? I’m hoping. We can’t say a lot about cutting spending because we’re a service organization and we’re down to people. So if we cut spending, it means people will lose their jobs, but the collections program, the sale of assets — looking for opportunities like that. I’m hoping we can maybe get it back down to $50 million.”

But Parker points out $50 million still translates to a significant number of job losses.

“This year’s budget is much harder than last year’s budget because for the first time we actually had a drop in property tax projected revenue. So instead of just not rising as fast as we anticipated, we actually had a drop and we’re having to adjust to that. The other element of this budget is that all of the easy cuts were already made. We consolidated, trimmed about $200 million in spending last year.”

Layoffs will continue this week, although the mayor says it’s her policy not to announce exact numbers until after the employees have been notified. She did say the number will be in the hundreds. Parker maintains her position that firefighters and police officers will be the the option of last resort.

“I am not prepared today to say that there will be no classified layoffs. But I am saying, as I have said each week you’ve asked me this, that it is my intention not to lay off any classified personnel and we continue to work on that.”

The mayor and firefighters union are in collective bargaining meetings, negotiating ways to change the terms of the city’s contract with the union and save firefighter positions.

Parker is required by law to present a balanced budget.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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