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Holding the Line

Harris County Commissioners examine recommendations made by the budget officer to keep from increasing taxes. A hiring freeze could remain in place in order to maintain the status quo. Pat Hernandez has more.


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Commissioners continue to find ways to trim expenses in light of a budget short-fall. County officials came before the court pleading their case to lift the hiring freeze. It created over 850 unfilled positions in many departments this year. Sheriff Adrian Garcia told the court he may be forced to use overtime to fill the gap from 350 positions he says he needs to fill. Commissioner Steve Radack suggested privatizing the county lockup.

“We have huge budgetary problems at the county and we’re trying to deal those. The jail continues to be a huge huge burden to the tax payers of Harris County, so it makes sense I think, to study it and get a report and see what it says.”

But Commissioner Sylvia Garcia didn’t think Radack’s idea was a good one.

“I don’t think that we would want our sheriff to be treated differently than any other sheriff in this state. There’s 254 counties that they all have statutory duties. They all have things they must do with regard to jail standards, with regard to a lot of the things that they have to do in law enforcement, through the court of criminal procedure. I mean, there are so many state laws involved, that I don’t think those are the kinds of things that you can delegate or privatize. So yes, I voted against it.”

Commissioner Jerry Eversole tells KUHF it’s getting to be a challenge every year maintaining basic services like law enforcement, roads and bridges.

“Somewhere Pat, I’m not saying this Commissioner’s Court, or the 2011 Commissioner’s Court, but somewhere a commissioner’s court is gonna have to man up and say we’re going to have to do a tax increase. People can blame it on the economy, year after year, after year.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says they’re trying to put the county on a firm foundation moving forward. He adds it wouldn’t be difficult to push for even a slight tax increase.

“And that discussion came up about you know, what is a penny sales tax? Twenty-six million dollars. I’m of the opinion we can find 26 million dollars to cut out of the county budget and those won’t be easy cuts, but you do what you have to do.”

Emmett says barring any catastrophe, he and Commissioner’s Court are taking the steps necessary to put a budget together that makes sense.