Weslaco budget woes propose personnel cut

The City of Weslaco is facing some major cuts in their proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and city employees are fearing the worst.

City officials have proposed a 20 percent cut in personnel.

The wife of a Weslaco firefighter who we'll call "Mari" said her husband fears the proposed cuts.

"Oh, he's very stressed out," she said.

He has been with the department for over 20 years.

"Morale is down big time. You can see it in their faces," said "Mari."

A citizen committee has been appointed to look over the proposed budget and suggest changes.

They've been asked to approve major layoffs including from the public safety sector like firefighters and police officers.

It's something Christopher Cuellar; the president of the Weslaco Firefighter's Association, said worries him.

"We're growing a lot and the staffing that we have right now is barely at minimum," said Cuellar.

Cuellar said per shift, there's from 15 to 18 firefighters working at all three fire stations in Weslaco, and they respond to county calls as well.

City manager Leo Olivares said compared to cities like San Juan, Weslaco is overstaffed, but Cuellar disagrees and said cutting firefighter staff will affect personal safety, medical response time and insurance rates.

"According to ISO, we're supposed to have a certain amount of firefighters for the amount of people that we take care of, and if that's reduced then your insurance rates goes up because technically, it's going to take us longer and it's going to make it harder for us to respond to an emergency," said Cuellar.

Weslaco residents who spoke to us off camera blame the budget crisis on management.

Some want to see City manager Olivares's salary cut down.

Olivares tells Action 4 News he makes around $151,000, and when asked if he is willing to cut his salary, he said yes.

He said he's willing to cut 20 percent.

That would leave him with around a $120,000 salary, something people like "Mari" said isn't fair when city worker layoffs would destroy families.

Olivares said he spoke to the departments before proposing the cuts, and he hopes those with concerns can come to him or the committee to give feedback.

Meeting times can be found on this website: