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Survey: SA police, firefighter compensation better than peer cities

Thousands of dollars added to base pay of active duty personnel

San Antonio City Council members Wednesday received an in-depth report on active duty police and firefighter compensation.

A survey conducted by Public Financial Management Inc. concluded that public safety compensation in San Antonio is highly competitive when compared to other Texas cities.

In addition to longevity pay, police officers and firefighters also receive other cash premiums for items such as assignment, overtime, education and certification.

The PFM group said that compensation is higher than in other parts of the state.

According to the survey, on average, longevity pay and premiums add approximately $20,000 per year to an officer's base salary.

San Antonio offers the most generous premiums for clothing allowance, shift differential, and education pay.

Firefighter's receive approximately $23,000 on top of their base salary.

The survey showed San Antonio offers the most generous premiums for paramedic pay and is one of only two cities to offer a uniform allowance to firefighters.

San Antonio also contributes more than other large Texas cities toward health care benefits for public safety personnel, which has been a major issue in ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.

The City maintains that unless active duty health care benefits are adjusted, then public safety costs will encompass the entire general fund.

The police and fire unions vehemently deny that claim and argue that the city manager's office is using incorrect figures.

The disagreement has become so contentious that City Manager Sheryl Sculley said the firefighters union has refused to start negotiations.

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana said that needs to change.

"If we have a disagreement of numbers it's important that you come forward and you stake out your point and you explain exactly why the numbers are off," he said. "We haven't had that discussion with the folks on the minority report. We have had a presentation provided to us, but we have a lot of questions that needed (answering) in a public forum."

Sculley said if a deal is not reached by the time the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Sept. 30, then the city will begin to take steps to ensure the general fund remains financially viable.

She said if an agreement is not reached, police and firefighter benefits would continue at current levels for up to 10 years.