Deadline Approaches for Firefighter Layoffs

The deadline is approaching for the City of Houston to notify employees if they will be laid off. In anticipation of that — 238 firefighters are on the list of possible cuts. Laurie Johnson reports.

The firefighter layoffs aren't definite, but probable unless the city can find additional revenue for HFD.

The city's charter requires that employees get 45 days notice of termination. May 17th is the deadline.

Jeff Caynon is president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association. He says 238 firefighters have been informed they'll be the first to go if no additional revenue is found.

"I met with the mayor on Monday and that's actually how we started off the meeting...she said, once again, that she's going to do everything she can to — that she can do to prevent the layoffs of any classified personnel. It's just difficult to reconcile what's being said in public with what's actually happening."

The cuts at HFD amount to about $17 million, or 3.9 percent of the department's budget.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says she's in meet and confer negotiations with the union to find other sources of revenue that could save those jobs.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of moving parts and I have some hard deadlines. And one of those hard deadlines is that my new budget starts July 1. It is still my intention not to lay off any classified personnel, public safety is our number one priority and that's reflected in the budget. But no department is immune to cuts."

But Caynon says if the mayor really wants to save jobs at the fire department, she could do so at the cost of other city services.

"I love the parks and libraries as much as the next person but if I've got to make a choice between parks and libraries and layoffs of firefighters — I'm making a decision about an inconvenience on the one hand and life and death on the other."

The mayor has cut the budgets for parks and libraries by 10 percent. Both of those departments raise some of their funds through public-private partnerships.

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...