Mayor's budget proposal avoids layoffs, preserves public safety spending

- The $4.9 billion budget crafted by Mayor Sylvester Turner has the City of Houston living within its current means and doing so without laying off a single municipal worker.

That said, the mayor warns that after closing a $114 million deficit, there is no more financial fat to trim and no more pockets of unrealized savings to be tapped.

"We have scrubbed the budget. We have scrubbed it over the last three years. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ask for more departmental reductions," said Turner.

If adopted by City Council, Turner's budget would represent an $83 million year-over-year increase in city spending -- enough money to maintain the current level of police and firefighter protection.

On the flip-side, the mayor's revenue plan does not fund the 500 additional cops Turner strongly believes the Bayou City needs.

"There is no question that we need additional revenue for public safety purposes, no question. I want to be very, very clear - We need additional revenue for public safety," said Turner.

It was a sentiment forcefully echoed by Police Chief Art Acevedo.

"We have 20,000 documented gang members. That doesn't count the ones we haven't documented. You have the fastest growing city of over a million in the country. It keeps putting more and more pressure on the front-line officers and at some point we are going to have to grow the department, " said Acevedo.

The mayor also warned that balancing the city's books without reducing the city's payroll has pushed other big obligations to the back burner. That means no money to meaningfully repair worn city buildings and no money to trim the quarter of a billion dollar tab still pending for Harvey damage.

"We are patching things together. We are patching," said Turner.

The mayor also says taxpayers should be aware that contracts for all three of the city's employee unions are up for renegotiation and all three unions expect to bargain for higher wages.

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