Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
Members of the San Antonio Police Officers Association voted 70.86% in favor of a proposed contract with the City of San Antonio this week. City Council will vote on the contract on Thursday, Sept. 1, two years after the previous contract expired.
Mayor Ivy Taylor made a seemingly impromptu announcement of the vote Thursday afternoon during a press conference regarding the now-approved SA Tomorrow comprehensive master plan. Police union members have been voting on their new contract since Aug. 5 via an online and telephone process conducted by a third-party elections administrator, according to the police union.
Out of 1,719 votes cast, 1,218 voted in favor of the contract that, among other things, includes a 14% wage increase over its five-year term and a 3% signing bonus. It will not keep public safety spending under 66% of the City’s General Fund throughout the five-year contract, a term the City had strongly advocated for throughout the more than two-year negotiation process.
"I'm very happy. It feels like things are coming together," Taylor said with a smile. "That has been an issue for too long. We want to be united with our police and we're working together with them to find solutions to challenges that we have here.
"I'm confident that a majority of my colleagues feel the same way," she added. "It's not over until the Council (votes) but I do feel some sense of relief."
Some stakeholders speculated that the union might have a hard time selling the contract to members due to a perceived lack of confidence in union leadership and the health care package that includes an option that would have officers’ family members pay monthly premiums.
The latest contract proposal is the result of mediation sessions ordered by the court as part of the City's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the contract's 10-year evergreen clause. If the contract, which has an eight-year clause, is ratified by Council, then the City will drop its lawsuit. An evergreen clause keeps certain conditions of a contract in place after it expires.
"For over two years we have been in tough and challenging negotiations to provide the best possible pay and benefits for our police officers and their families," stated SAPOA President Mike Helle in a news release. "The Mayor stepped in and brought this deal together and it could not have been done without her guiding City staff to compromise."
“This was a fair deal for our officers, and I’m glad they saw it that way,” stated City Manager Sheryl Sculley in a news release. “If approved by the City Council, this will allow us to add officers to our force, give our officers the pay raises they deserve and maintain a balanced budget that reflects our community’s priorities."
Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) and some members of the community have expressed concern that the contract doesn't do enough to address police disciplinary procedures. Saldaña recently told Taylor and Council colleagues that he could not support the contract as proposed.
“There are parts that I can live with and things I can swallow that are not great, but to get nothing in the way of police reform is a surprise,” Saldaña told the Rivard Report in a phone interview earlier this month.
While those are legitimate concerns, Taylor said Thursday, an overwhelming majority of the contract negotiation sessions were spent talking about wages and health care. She added that opening up another conversation about disciplinary actions would further prolong the process.
"That kind of put us in a position where it was difficult to introduce additional concepts," Taylor said. "Moving past the contract, I am committed to working collaboratively on those issues, I've talked with Mr. Helle about what the possibilities might be as far as convening stakeholders and discussing some of the challenges. So I think there's still opportunity for us to address some of the community's concerns."
If approved, the contract would come just in time for the City's 2017 fiscal year. City Council will consider a draft of next year's budget on Thursday, Aug. 18. After a series of public input meetings, the budget will be up for a vote on Thursday, Sept. 25.
Click here to view the City’s timeline.
"We now encourage the firefighters union to come to the table and negotiate so that we can plan for our community’s needs as our city continues to grow,” Sculley stated.
The City also filed a lawsuit challenging the 10-year evergreen clause in the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association's contract. The fire union has yet to come to the table to negotiate.
Here's an overview of some of the contract terms:
- 17% in wage increases over five years including
- 3% lump sum upon signing;
- 3% increase in year two;
- 3% increase in year three;
- 3% increase in year four;
- 5% increase in year five.
- There will still be no monthly health care premiums for officers, but for the first time it will offer officers a choice between a plan that would charge family members a premium and the Consumer Driven Healthcare Plan that does not.
- The $1.5 million fund that pays for officers legal fees will be eliminated only if the fire union agrees to the same term.
- The cost of contract (assuming the fire union/City ratifies a similar contract)
- keeps public safety spending less than 66% of the City’s General Fund Budget for at least three years;
- increases public safety spending to 66.3% in year four;
- increased public safety spending to 67.6% in year five.
- The 10-year evergreen clause will be reduced to eight and healthcare premiums would increase 10% for each year in evergreen.
- Officers will receive $100 more per year in annual clothing allowance.
Top image: (FILE PHOTO) SAPOA President Mike Helle speaks with reporters about the new police union contract on June 15, 2016. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
Read all the stories on the City and police union negotiations in the Rivard Report archive.