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Voluntary furloughs

I suppose this was inevitable.

Mayor Annise Parker announced a voluntary furlough program for civilian employees in December, the first in what may be a series of difficult steps the city must take to close a $30 million budget deficit in the next six months.

Parker said she would take a furlough — a day off without pay — and five City Council members standing with her also agreed to do likewise, including Sue Lovell, Al Hoang, Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams and Brenda Stardig. At best, the city could reap $1 million in savings from the program, although Parker said it was too soon to know how many employees would participate.

“The budget is tightening up,” Parker said. “Some of the savings we are working on … probably will not materialize this fiscal year.”

The Mayor’s announcement is here, and a statement from HOPE, which is definitely taking one for the team, is beneath the fold.

In addition to the $30 million gap the city must close in the next six months, there remains a $118 million gap in 2012 and about a $420 million projected deficit in the next three years. To deal with those gaps, the administration has begun to contemplate raising taxes, instituting additional furloughs and renegotiating pension payments.

City Controller Ronald Green, who said he planned to take a furlough, predicted that involuntary furloughs would be inevitable.

As I’ve been saying, it’s a function of what amount of government services we’re willing to tolerate, and what amount we actually want. And anyone who talks about “sacrifice” without including a higher property tax rate as an option is someone who’s hoping that sacrifice will be borne by others. Stace has more.

City of Houston Civilian Workers: Stepping Up to Close the Budget Gap

City workers support Mayor Parker’s Voluntary Furlough plan, are ready to share the load during worst economic crisis in decades

HOUSTON—Today, the Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE)—the city of Houston municipal employees’ union—endorsed Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s decision to offer workers voluntary furloughs in the month of December. HOPE members originated the idea as a way to avoid more painful cuts to public services in 2011.

HOPE President and Public Works employee Melvin Hughes said, “Though the recession was caused by greed on Wall Street, we are stepping up to the plate because Houston has a revenue problem that is hurting workers and taxpayers alike. HOPE members want to be part of the solution.”

Hughes plans to be one of the first to take a voluntary furlough day, one way city workers are preparing to share the burden in order to make it through this recession.

HOPE Executive Director Annika Dowling attended Mayor Parker’s news conference on Friday afternoon. She praised city workers who are focused on protecting public services from the effects of the recession. “City employees are the heartbeat of Houston,” said Dowling. “Every day, HOPE members make our city better by finding better, smarter and less costly ways to serve the public. Now, with this furlough program, they are volunteering to lead Houston out of the budget gap and towards an economy that works for everyone.”

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5 Comments

  1. John says:

    Why can’t the COH of just fire some people or cut everyone’s salary by 5%? Do the Union contracts prevent either of those options? I think that would at least help cut some of the shortfall

    Kuff, come on you are tight with Annise and her inner circle you know that if she raised taxes she would lose next year. I agree we have to raise some taxes, but I think her desire (just like 99% of ALL politicians) to get re-elected trumps doing the right thing, in this case raising taxes.

  2. Brad Davis says:

    Any city-wide salary reductions should be done on an inversely proportional ratio starting with the highest percentage cuts at top-leval salaries and diminishing as one goes down the salary ladder. Further, consolidation of resources is essential so as to reduce replication of work. For example, the City has an IT department, HPD has an IT department, and Metro has an IT department. Further, get a handle on Fleet services, institute mileage caps and pool all vehicles requiring check-out and in procedures. Close city offices 30 minutes early each day and create a stronger web presence – a virtual city so to speak. And find some way to collect all the money that is owed to the city and still outstanding. These are not the entire solution, but a good start.

  3. Dan says:

    In addition to salary reductions, our long term salvation may very well be a slight tax increase (bummer, I know). I hate that the city nickel-and-dimed people with different fee increases, when should have just increased prop taxes. For those suggesting massive layoffs, do we really want to add 1-2k to Houston’s unemployment number?

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  5. […] sure didn’t take long. By unanimous vote of City Council, the voluntary furloughs will become involuntary by the end of the year, with Mayor Parker deciding how many enforced unpaid […]