Mayor Julian Castro’s Healthcare and Retirement Benefits Task Force will recommend Wednesday that the city align the benefit and health care contributions of its uniformed personnel with the city’s civilian employees.
According to a statement released by the task force, “Uniformed health care benefits are richer by a large margin than civilian employees, as compared to peer cities in Texas, and compared to private employers in San Antonio.”
The group will make their presentation to the San Antonio City Council Wednesday.
The task force was created in the weeks following 2014 budget negotiations.
San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley warned council members that the city’s public safety budget, which makes up two-thirds of the $988 million general fund, would take up the entire general fund by 2031.
Officials from the San Antonio Police Officers Association and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association dispute Sculley’s numbers and believe the task force should have looked at the city’s entire budget, not just the public safety portion.
Under the current plan, which was established under the last collective bargaining agreement, police and firefighters do not pay health care premiums. Their deductibles are also among the lowest in Texas at $250 for an individual and $500 for a family.
Civilian employees pay bi-weekly premiums, and their plans include an annual deductible that ranges from $600 to $1,250 for individuals and $1,500 to $2,500 for families.
According to Joanna Antongiovanni of Wortham Insurance the average annual deductible for an individual in San Antonio is $2,000 - $2,500 and $4,000 - $4,500 for a family.
Residents hope the two sides can come to an agreement later this year when another round of collective bargaining begins, but reaction to the task force’s recommendation was mixed.
“The fire department and police department are paid appropriately, and paid well and that includes benefits,” said John Thomas. “There's always ways to reduce costs in other ways so we don’t jeopardize (the people) that protect us on a regular basis.”
Vincent Papa, a federal employee, said uniformed personnel should pay more for health coverage.
“They should be the same or maybe reduced a little bit,” Papa said. “They put their lives on the line every day, so if not the same, than reduced.”
The presentation will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at city hall at 2 p.m.