Mayor Says Layoffs, Major Cuts Loom

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she has warned her department directors that drastic cuts are ahead — including for police and fire services. The mayor says some departments could be cut by as much as 25 percent. Laurie Johnson reports.

The mayor has to eliminate about $130 million in spending from the fiscal year 2012 budget.

That's about an eight percent cut across the board. Parker says she tried to avoid making cuts to the police and fire departments, but the budget gap is too deep.

"The police department and the fire department together are two-thirds of the city budget. I came down on the side of those two departments are going to have to figure out how to absorb five percent cuts. That still means that the bulk of the rest of the city  departments are in the low 20s in terms of cuts."

Cuts that deep will mean layoffs in nearly every department. Parker hasn't announced a specific number of job losses, but it could be in excess of 2,000 positions. Parker says she's trying to prepare city council and department directors for drastic changes.

"A 24-26 percent cut in the Parks Department, for example, could mean you close swimming pools for the summer. That same cut in the libraries may mean that you close libraries on a rotating basis. We've trimmed more than $250 million in city spending, but we've done it without service cuts. We cannot any longer do it without service cuts."

Parker says layoffs will begin in the next few weeks, with the first round of cuts based on poor performance evaluations.

The City of Houston employs more than 21,000 people.

For more information, view the Budget Departmental Targets.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...