Turner Announces Dozens of Prop-B Layoffs

The continuing battle over Proposition-B between Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the firefighters just got real for dozens of people. 

The mayor's office sent layoff notices to 67 firefighter cadets, who will lose their jobs on June 7th.  Turner's office says 47 municipal workers will also be laid off; those employees will be notified next week.

The city claims the voter-approved measure that guarantees pay parity to firefighters will cause a budget shortfall of up to 100-million dollars. Turner has repeatedly said Proposition-B provided no funding mechanism.

Here is the complete statement from the Mayor's Office:

“Proposition B came without a funding source as it adds $80 million to $100 million a year to the city's bottom line. At the same time, the city is experiencing a $117 million budget gap, with the cost of Prop B added on top of that.

By law, the city must balance its budget before the start of the next fiscal year, July 1.

The City asked Patrick "Marty" Lancton of the firefighters' association to phase in Prop B over five years to avoid any layoffs of firefighters and municipal workers. He refused and is demanding the immediate implementation of Prop B. The City is doing precisely that. but it will require layoffs to balance the city's budget.

Today the 67 fire cadets received notice that they will be laid off in 60 days. Next week 47 municipal workers will receive notices. And on April 17, City Council will vote on layoffs of classified (first responder) personnel.

In the absence of a phased-in approach, the City's options are limited when we must balance our budget by the end of June.”

Turner's opponents in the upcoming mayoral election reacted quickly. Attorney Tony Buzbee says he's calling the mayor's bluff on a "phase-in" being the only viable option to prevent firefighter layoffs. He issued a statement saying "how about cutting his bloated city staff, reducing the number of lawyers at city hall, or canceling contracts that offer little to no value to the city?"  

Fellow challenger Bill King said in a statement that Turner has "turned his back on these public servants." Here's the statement from his campaign:

"Laying off the cadets is pure vindictiveness and a stupid waste of the $3M Houston taxpayers spent on training them. Since The Prop B election and Turner's supposed hiring freeze he has approved hiring over 270 new employees at an annual cost of over $11 M annually. Included in the new hires are three "communication" employees in Turner's office. It shows where his priorities are."

Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, released the following statement, urging the City Council to push back against the mayor's actions:

"Sylvester Turner's layoff notices to taxpayer-funded, Houston-trained HFD cadets reflect the mayor's ineptitude, egotism, and a new depth of his vindictiveness.

"Today marks another sordid chapter of Turner's reckless neglect of the fire department and his contempt for firefighter families and 298,000 Proposition B voters.

"As the mayor knows, the announced HFD cadet layoffs are preventable. We hope more Houston City Council members finally will stand up to Turner and reject his slash-and-burn plan for HFD. His next move likely will be to lay off more firefighters and close fire stations in city council districts throughout the city. In the meantime, we urge citizens to contact their City Council members about the threatened HFD cadet and firefighter layoffs.

"The consequences of Turner's endless political and legal war on firefighters families will soon include diminished public safety - from slower response times to unavailability of critical fire and EMS resources in times of peak demand. 

"Today's firefighter cadet layoff notices, which followed the city's announcement of a new Houston Police Department class this week and his recent hiring of hundreds of police and civilian employees, also show once again that the mayor manufactured a fiscal crisis to justify his intensifying retaliation against firefighters."

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