Up to 3,000 city of Houston employees could face furloughs to help balance budget

HOUSTON – Up to 3,000 city of Houston employees could face furloughs this year to help balance the budget that has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Tuesday.

Turner said that before the coronavirus pandemic, the city was expected a modest increase in sales tax revenue. Turner said that after the coronavirus pandemic began, an estimated $107 million of lost sales tax revenue is expected in both 2020 and 2021.

The mayor said his proposed $5.1 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year takes into account not only the decrease in sales tax revenue but also the expected requirement to lower property tax revenue to stay below the state-mandated revenue cap.

Turner said all of this has created a $169 million budget gap, which must be balanced even in the midst of these difficult financial times.

“It is extra, extra lean, but it balances,” Turner said.

Officials are investigating the possibility of using money allocated to the city by the CARES Act to help balance the budget, Turner said. He said that money is also been drawn from the city’s general fund to make up some of the gap.

In the absence of additional money, Turner said, measures like the 3,000 furloughs and deferring five police cadet classes will be necessary to make up the loss.

The police and fire departments will be exempted from furloughs, and the solid waste department will see a limited number of furloughs, Turner said.

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