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City And Police Union Reach Contract Deal

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
File Photo: The City of San Antonio and San Antonio Police Officer's Association meet during one of many previous negotiation sessions.

After nearly three years of negotiation, the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Police Officer's Association have come to a deal on a wage and healthcare contract.

“The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association have come to an agreement and achieved some key objectives," San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor said. "Our police officers will get a pay raise; we’ve addressed issues like personal legal expenses; and we’ve brought their healthcare plans more in line with what we offer our civilian employees.”

The contract has been a point of contention for both sides since the current contract expired in September of 2014. 

“We consistently stated from the beginning three years ago that we want a contract that is fair to our employees and affordable for taxpayers,” said City Manager Sheryl Sculley. “Healthcare expenses are the fastest growing portion of the public safety budget, and by having our officers share in the cost of healthcare, we can better manage public safety expenses and address the many other needs of our community, including streets, sidewalks, parks and libraries.”

A 10-year evergreen clause kept the contract in place until a new contract was signed. The city claimed increasing healthcare costs made the previous agreement unaffordable. The city had a lawsuit on appeal over the evergreen clause. The city had initially lost in county court and was prepared to take it to the Texas Supreme Court.

Both sides met at the negotiation table numerous times with the police union ultimately walking away from the table until the city had agreed to drop the lawsuit.

Most recently both sides were ordered into mediation to iron out a final contract.  

“For two years we have been negotiating a contract. Yes, it has been challenging and at times very difficult,” San Antonio Police Officer’s Association President Mike Helle said. “Our goal was to protect our police officers and their families. We also wanted to protect the financial stability of the community we serve. We believe this settlement agreement does both of those items and puts a contentious negotiation process behind us. I want to extend my thanks to Mayor Ivy Taylor, who stepped up and exemplified the leadership necessary to bring both sides together. Now its time for us to move on to rebuilding the morale and well being of our Department to ensure we are protecting the community we serve.”

Some of the terms of the contract include:

  • All officers would receive a 17 percent wage increase over five years, including a 3 percent lump sum in year one, 3 percent increases in years two through four and a 5 percent increase in year five. There would be no retroactive pay for the two years officers have gone without a raise since the contract expired in 2014.
  • Officers would pay no monthly healthcare premiums for themselves, but would pay premiums for their dependents under one of the two plans offered. If officers choose the Consumer Driven Healthcare Plan, they would pay no premiums for themselves or their dependents.
  • The total cost of the contract would keep public safety spending at less than 66 percent of the City’s General Fund Budget for at least the first three years of the contract. Under current projections, public safety expenditures would be 66.3 percent of the General Fund Budget in year four and 67.6 percent in year five.
  • The Evergreen Clause of the contract would be reduced from 10 years to 8, with a condition that healthcare premiums would increase 10percent for each year that the contract remains in evergreen after it expires.
  •  The City’s lawsuit over the constitutionality of the Evergreen Clause would be stayed pending ratification of the union contract. If the mediated settlement agreement is not ratified, the lawsuit would continue through the appeals process. The lawsuit against the fire union’s Evergreen Clause continues.

It will take up to 60 days for ratification and approval of the contract through the SAPOA membership and San Antonio City Council. The decision has no effect on negotiations for the contract with the San Antonio Professional Firefighter’s Association.
A press conference is set for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules