Houston voters have spoken: the city will lay off 400 firefighters in order to pay for raises for veteran firefighters on par with what police officers in the city earn.
In a November referendum, 59% of the voters supported Proposition B, which mandates that city firefighters receive the same pay as police officers of the same rank equivalent. But in order to achieve this, Mayor Sylvester Turner, who reportedly opposes the raises, will mail out layoff notices over the next few weeks to roughly 10 percent of his personnel. Expected to receive the notices are dozens of cadets, according to Fox News.
“When you factor in Proposition B, it’s $197 million that we have to find a way to balance between now and June, and unless there’s additional revenue coming in, we cannot do it without there being significant layoffs,” Turner told KHOU-TV.
As a result of Proposition B, Turner is expected to ask each of his city departments to cut their budgets by 3 percent, which may result in additional layoffs, excluding police officers who are off limits, Councilwoman Brenda Stardig told The Houston Chronicle.
But firefighters will have to sacrifice the positions in order to achieve the raises. The fire department will reportedly cut $25 million out of its $503 million budget.
“The mayor’s hatred of firefighters now will have terrible consequences for us and for the public,” Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton told the Chronicle. “He’s willing to destroy public safety in Houston to punish firefighter families. A world-class fire department is being destroyed from within by third-rate politicians.”
Turner says he is caught between a rock and a hard place. He is against the proposition, even warning voters of the ramifications of layoffs if it passed.
“People want to put the administration in a box,” Turner said, according to Fox News. “If you don’t implement Prop. B, people criticize you for not implementing Proposition B. When we move to implement Prop. B, people say, ‘We don’t want the layoffs.’ Well, you can’t have it both ways.”