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The Source: Where Are City And Public Safety Unions On Contract?

police respond2
Ryan Loyd
/
TPR News

Last January, the City of San Antonio began negotiations with public safety unions to renew their contract.

The city's goal was to reduce the expenditure on health care and pension benefits that are significantly higher than other public employee packages.

According to a study by a city task force headed by former council member Reed Williams, public safety's employment benefits were consuming two-thirds the budget in 2014 and would outgrow the general fund in coming decades. 

Among the Task force's recommendations was ensuring that public safety officials paid for a portion of their healthcare, reforming the pension program, and eliminating some of the more generous perks. The benefits package the San Antonio Police have, which was negotiated in 1988, is one of the best in the state. 

Police and Fire representatives challenged the validity of the numbers. In several interviews on "The Source" there appeared to be little trust from either side. Public Safety unions said that city-manager Sherly Sculley is fear mongering.

The contracts for public safety unions expired last September, and they are currently operating for the city under their evergreen clause, which maintains their benefit package until a new contract can be struck. The clause can last up to 10 years. The city challenged the validity of the evergreen clause in court. 

Additionally, the city manger's office was accused of collaborating in a "push-poll" administered in secret by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, seeking to sway public opinion onto the city's side of the public safety benefits debate. The Chamber originally denied knowing about the push poll, as did  City Manager Sculley. 

Public opinion on the topic has been stretched as the process drags on. Originally the city did seem to enjoy the support of residents. The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce did release an April survey that showed a strong majority in favor of public safety paying for up to 30 percent of their premiums. Support of the council, which has replaced half its membership as well as the mayor in the past year, has been shaken with several councilman wanting to drop the lawsuit challenging police and fire's evergreen clause.

Where are we now regarding public safety in San Antonio?

Guests:

  • Mayor Ivy Taylor
  • Mike Helle, current president of the San Antonio Police Officer's Association
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive