Waiting for Budget Review

Harris County Commissioner’s court continues to crunch the budget numbers as the economy has forced governments here and abroad to adjust their operations. County Judge Ed Emmett says it’s a difficult circumstance, but not as difficult as other jurisdictions. Pat Hernandez has more.


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Budget cuts are never easy. For every item that is cut out, someone or something takes a hit. Harris County Commissioners have been working hard to adhere to an across-the-board hiring freeze. County judge Ed Emmett says everyone is waiting for budget officer Dick Raycraft to suggest ways on how to fill those vacancies:

We need to be looking at positions in terms of are we actually saving money by filling the positions, and I think we would. That’s something that Dr. Raycraft doesn’t necessarily agree with right now. He wants to wait til mid year and so, that’s where we are. But I do think we need to look at the cost of leaving positions vacant. If we’re spending more on overtime, if we’re spending more on temporary positions that we’re saving, then that’s not necessarily good at the end of the day for taxpayers.

He says some unfilled positions may wind up being shifted to other departments:

It may be a restructuring even. Maybe the idea is okay, we’re gonna eliminate these positions but we’re gonna fill these positions, we’re gonna transfer some from one place to another. We had one on the agenda today that was a transfer from the juvenile justice area back over to the sheriff’s office. That was just postponed for two weeks so that the management services office could look at it.

Dr. Raycraft with the budget office says the one cent in ad valorem taxes will generate less funds than the previous year. Emmett says the court needs to plan carefully for operations during the balance of the fiscal year:

The good news is the county, the entire commissioner’s court, management services, the entire county government, is wrestling with the reality of where we are in terms of tax revenue coming in, and we’re being very cautious, and that’s a good thing.

Emmett says at the mid-year budget review in September, Raycraft will present the court with recommendations on how to proceed with projects and priorities.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF News.

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