Mayor Parker Details Voluntary Furlough Plan for City Employees
December 4, 2010

 (From the Mayor’s Office)

Mayor Annise Parker today announced a voluntary furlough plan, as suggested by the Houston Organization for Public Employees (HOPE) union, for the current month to help alleviate the budget challenges faced by the City of Houston.

“While the City has been able to withstand the current economic crisis longer than most, we are now faced with budget challenges that force us to make tough fiscal choices,” said Mayor Parker. “I sincerely appreciate HOPE’s willingness to offer suggestions that will help the City as it works to find fiscally-responsible solutions for dealing with our ongoing budget situation.”

“While City of Houston employees are not to blame, HOPE is proud to be part of the solution to help close the City’s budget gap,” said Melvin Hughes, HOPE president and City of Houston maintenance mechanic. “As a member of the City’s workforce, I’m doing my part by taking a voluntary furlough day.”

Employees are encouraged to focus on utilizing days that are within the period of December 11 to December 24, as that is when payroll deductions are at their lowest for the year, thus helping to minimize the financial impact. City employees who volunteer are prohibited from performing any City work on a furlough day.

Under the City’s agreement with Houston Municipal Employee Pension System, employees were only able to receive up to five (5) credited service days for voluntary or involuntary furloughs. The Board of Directors of the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System took quick action in approving a change in this agreement so that up to ten (10) credited service days are allowed, eliminating any possibility of a negative impact on employee pensions in the event an extended furlough program is required in the New Year. City Council will be asked to vote on this change next week.

Through sufficient participation in this program, Mayor Parker hopes to limit the need for an involuntary furlough program for municipal employees during the second half of the 2011 fiscal year – January 1 to June 30.

Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan Talks About City’s Budget Problems
August 31, 2009

Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan (District E) is weighing in on the budget battle at city hall.

As we reported, Controller Annise Parker is projecting  a $103 Million dollar shortfall, while Mayor Bill White’s office says the shortfall is between $20 – $40 Million.

We”ll hear more from the Mayor in a news conference this afternoon.

In the meantime, Sullivan gives his take on the bleak financial forecast.

He told 2 on the Beat that in addition to a drop in property and sales tax revenue, the city has also seen a decrease in the amount of money collected for traffic meters, traffic citations, city building permits and in other areas that contribute to the city’s $4 Billion annual operating budget.

Budget Battle At Houston City Hall
August 30, 2009

Is the city of  Houston facing a  $20 Million or $103 Million shortfall?

How could the numbers be so far apart?

That’s what many Houston city hall insiders and taxpayers are asking after city controller Annise Parker  sent  her most recent monthly financial report to Mayor Bill White and city council members,.

It projects a $103 Million shortfall in the general fund.

2 on the Beat was given a copy of the interoffice correspondence, and you can read it here: www.houstontx.gov/budget/mfr/fy10/july/i.pdf

Parker’s letter says the shortfall is a result, in part,  of the city collecting substantially less than expected revenue from both property taxes and sales taxes. 

But late Sunday evening, Mayor Whites’ spokesman Frank Michel strongly disputed the numbers released by the controller.

Michel told KPRC Local 2 that the revenue projections are off  by $20 Million, not $103 Million.  Michel said Parkers numbers are incorrect.  

He stressed that the Mayor is not considering any drastic cutbacks  in city services, nor is Mayor White on the verge of ordering furloughs for city employees.

We will hear more about the budget battle this week.  Parker is expected to brief  the mayor and council members during Wednesday’s meeting.

Both Parker and White are running for higher office, Parker for Mayor and White for the U.S. Senate.

Neither wants to look as though he or she dropped the ball on the city’s finances.