Police, fire department mixed on mayor's proposed budget

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is again pushing to raise the revenue cap to hire more cops.

“We need additional revenue for public safety and this conversation needs to take place, and we need to have that conversation starting yesterday,” Turner said Tuesday as he rolled out his $4.9 budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year.

The $2.5 billion general fund represents an $83 million increase over the current budget and wipes out a $114 million shortfall without layoffs by pulling money from special funds and cutting spending.

It also includes five new cadet classes for police and three new classes for the fire department.

“In the first year of the plan we were hoping to grow 100, but we're going to grow 150 instead,” says Houston Police Officers' Union president Joe Gamaldi.  “This is a huge development and will be the largest growth we've had at HPD in probably a generation.”

“We have been short for far too long. We are running a paper thin crew to the point where it's dangerous for our officers,” he says.  “So I'm happy to see that it looks like we're going to be able to add 150 police officers this coming fiscal year.”

Firefighters however, continue to feel they're getting the wrong end of the stick.

“For over a decade, HFD budgets have been cut to the bone, eliminating proper funding for our facilities, fleet, training and other programs that address firefighter PTSD, stress management and suicide prevention,” says Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

 “We are losing good, Houston-trained firefighters because budget cuts have made HFD less competitive in wages, benefits and working conditions,” he says.  “Houston firefighters have continued to make proposals to cost-effectively strengthen the fire department and respect the expectations of taxpayers.”

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