Mayor Annise Parker talks again about trying to control HPD and HFD overtime costs as a way of bridging the city’s budget shortfall.
Mayor Annise Parker provided an early picture of how she intends to close a $140 million budget gap to City Council Wednesday, indicating she will steer the city away from layoffs and furloughs, but demand millions in cuts from public safety departments.
Parker, however, said she plans to move forward with the city’s contractual obligations to pay raises to all employees.
“The budget, as it stands now, does not have any cuts in those pay increases, nor does it have any major furloughs,” she told council. “We may be the last major city in America not to have a furlough, and I kind of want to hold on to that.”
Parker has insisted that the cuts under consideration, which include everything from reducing overtime to privatizing ambulance services, are necessary because more than $1 billion — roughly half of the city’s general fund budget — is spent in the Houston police and fire departments.
She said the cuts she has proposed, which she said would reduce spending by more than $16 million, will not reduce the number of police officers on the street.
Although she offered few specifics, Parker said police and fire budgets will be trimmed by taking a close look at overtime expenses. Police overtime can be reduced by adding a cadet class and fire overtime can be reduced by changing the structure of some shifts, she said.
I hope the Mayor is able to hold onto that “no furloughs” distinction, too. More on overtime costs is here, and more on ambulance costs is here; be sure to read the comment, as well. Bringing in another cadet class mirrors the county’s plan to help reduce overtime costs in the Sheriff’s office, which is both sensible and likely to be broadly popular. We don’t know the details yet, so we’ll see how this plays out.