Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

John Blount

Harris County starts firing people

So it begins.

County government layoffs have begun as Harris County seeks to trim its $1.3 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins on March 1.

Last week, the Architecture and Engineering Department notified 14 employees that they would be out of work on Feb. 25 unless the budget picture substantially changes.

“These are good people, and we’re just short money,” said John Blount, the department’s director. “The public expects us to do more with less and I understand that.”

Most of the county’s reserve fund is gone. About 73 percent of the budget is dedicated to payroll — salaries and benefits to the 15,000 employees who catch, try and incarcerate criminals, run libraries, build roads, manage public documents, inoculate people against disease and perform various other jobs.

Non-personnel costs, such as utilities, fuel for county vehicles and basic supplies, account for much of the rest, so large spending cuts almost by necessity involve trimming payroll costs.

In case you’re curious, the mission statement of the Architecture and Engineering Division is as follows:

The mission of the Harris County Public Infrastructure Department – Architecture and Engineering Division is to execute the planning, study, design and construction of various buildings, roads, bridges, traffic signals, drainage improvements, parks, and other architectural and maintenance projects in accordance with certain design standards and contract documents. This Division also administers 12 sets of rules and regulations, including Flood Plain Management for Harris County.

In other words, nothing of any consequence. Who needs that stuff, anyway?