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First city layoff notices sent

Here we go.

The city has sent pink slips to 67 Houston Fire Department cadets, the first documented layoffs resulting from Mayor Sylvester Turner’s plan to implement Proposition B.

The trainees will remain employed through June 7, according to a copy of the layoff notices sent to cadets.

“The City of Houston has experienced a sizable budget shortfall due to the implementation of Prop B,” the layoff notices read, referring to the charter amendment passed by voters last November.

The measure requires the city to pay firefighters the same as police of corresponding rank and experience. Voters approved Prop B by an 18-point margin.

“I want to assure you that the elimination of your position was a business decision and does not reflect your work performance or the value we place on your service to the City,” the layoff notices, addressed from Fire Chief Sam Peña, also read.

Next week, 47 municipal employees will receive layoff notices, Turner said in a statement, while city council will vote April 17 on whether to lay off classified firefighters under the mayor’s plan to pay for Prop B-mandated raises.


His plan for implementing the raises prompted by Prop B, unveiled last month in talks with city council members, calls for the fire department to decrease its head count by 378 for the upcoming fiscal year, including layoffs.

Turner’s plan also calls for all city departments to cut their spending by 3 percent, which is expected to lead to the layoff of about 100 municipal workers.

In recent weeks, the mayor has said no layoffs would be needed if the raises required by Prop B could be phased in over four or five years.

See here, here, and here for some background, and here for the city’s statement. It will be interesting to see how Council handles this when it comes time to vote. Other than Dwight Boykins, it’s not clear to me who’s with the firefighters on this. This will certainly provide some clarity. As far as a phase-in period goes, if the city says “give us five years and we can avoid layoffs”, while the firefighters say “no, but we can go for three years”, I confess I don’t quite understand why some kind of deal can’t be reached. Maybe that’s just me. For what it’s worth, nothing has to be set in stone till Council votes on the budget. There is still time for an agreement to be reached. How likely that is, I have no idea. But at least theoretically, it could happen.

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  1. David Fagan says:

    Now there’s the comptroller’s issues with the mayor’s implementation plan, which excludes many benefits outlined in the ballot language. This gives credit to the fire union’s concern about the funding and costs and full implementation on prop B. If the Mayor cannot be as transparent as he says he is, how can the union work with him? How can city council members vote on jobs that is supposed to be based on incomplete figures? It is not cheaper for people to resolve these things in court, as some would argue. Unless the plan is to make the opponent unable to afford any more lawsuits, then justice is bought, and bought only for the rich.

  2. C.L. says:

    And so it begins….

    Should come as no surprise – it was declared, predicted, spelled out, warned, etc., it was going to happen if Prop B passed…and it did, and so it goes.

    What I never heard from anyone on the Pro Prop B camp was how passing WASNT going to result in layoffs. All I heard was a ‘we deserve to make as much as HPD’. Zilch about the ramifications of it passing, and how to avoid the loss of City personnel.

  3. Steve Houston says:

    Charles, those with selective hearing or retention seem to have forgot that the city was going into the next several years with yearly deficits due to programmed spending. Some have had the balls to declare they never heard about potential layoffs (talk about low information voters!!!) while others maintain that the layoff talk was all threats so they went into denial mode. The objections by the union leaders change as each is addressed but currently their sticking point is as David points out, “full implementation of Prop B”.

    “Marty” sees the Mayor’s offer as shorting his members millions of dollars by spreading the raise out over time and not including every obscure provision of Prop B. The Mayor sees the union position as greedy and how they are unwilling to face the reality of what was told to them since last year. Both are correct to a degree but each wants something so I hope you are right that they can both compromise.

    If the union cares about the hundreds of layoffs, it can allow the phasing in over 5 years and if the Mayor cares, he can fully implement by that time. Conversely, the Mayor could phase the base pay in over 4 years by adjusting the yearly increases to favor the latter years, and Marty can accept that getting the bulk of the raises is a darned sight better than trying to outspend the city on legal fees. As far as City Council approval, they have never spent nearly as much time as is needed to fully appreciate what a BUDGET is other than to play a game of “gotcha” when it suited their personal agenda so claims of incomplete data fall short. They can attend the budget workshops if they want more information and stop sending flunkies to those meetings if they care.

  4. Paul Kubosh says:

    I don’t know why an agreement can’t be reached. I agree with Kuffner.