One of the things that Mayor Annise Parker touts about the city's 2011 proposed budget -- released today -- is that it's balanced without any major layoffs in city departments or any mandatory furloughs for city employees.
By the end of her presentation at City Hall, however, Parker said that you can pretty much expect layoffs in city departments and furloughs for city employees.
"I didn't promise no furloughs," Parker said. "Furloughs are always an option when conceivable, if there's a decline in revenue."
She continued, "We're looking at every position in the City of Houston, and every service we provide, to figure out if we need to provide that service, or if there's a way to provide that service more effectively or for less money."
Of course, Parker said that any city employees that are lost in the "reorganization" of departments will have the option to re-apply when jobs become available.
Parker said she expects the $4.12 billion budget to be finalized in about a month. It still has to get city council approval, which will no doubt include budget amendments.
One of the biggest hurdles the mayor faced in putting together the budget was a decline in property tax revenues by $45.1 million, as well as sticking to a plan to not borrow against Pension Obligation Bonds that, as she said, have been used in the past for budget gaps.
This budget used 3 percent cuts in most departments, along with lower cuts in the City Council, City Secretary, and police and fire departments to save money.
There is money for a couple police cadet classes and three fire cadet classes. After older officers and fire fighters leave, these classes, according to the mayor, should result in a slightly larger police force and about the same amount of fire fighters.
The mayor also said there will be a review of city fees, and she expects an increase for some of them.
As she said before, Parker reiterated that there is little room for error in the budget, a scary thing heading into a hurricane season with a Rainy Day Fund that hasn't been replenished since Ike, and, the mayor added, uncertainty about how any revenues from the oil and gas industry will be affected by the disaster in the Gulf.
But, she said, "Every number in this budget is achievable. Unless there is a disaster of some kind."
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