SAN ANTONIO - District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg issued the following statement regarding the City Council's approval of a new collective bargaining contract with the San Antonio Police Officers Association:
"Two years ago, I joined my Council colleagues in outlining an acceptable resolution to the collective bargaining agreement. One that would help us stay within our budget while providing the kind of benefits and accountability that our public safety and residents deserve.
Chiefly, we sought a contract that would keep costs from further climbing past 66 percent of the general fund budget while significantly reducing the 'evergreen clause' that hindered active bargaining and achieving a fair share of health care costs. In addition, the chief of police urged disciplinary procedure reforms that would expand accountability and ensure public trust.
This deal, orchestrated by the mayor, achieves none of those objectives.
First, by the fourth year of this agreement, the proposed contract increases to more than 66 percent of the budget. By year five, according to city staff, we will be more than $20 million over budget. That's the rough equivalent of the entire delegate agency budget that funds organizations dealing with some of the most urgent issues in our city, from child abuse to literacy. That's not fiscally responsible.
The 10-year evergreen clause, which we took our police and fire unions to court over in 2015, citing unconstitutionality, was reduced by a mere two years. When this contract ends in 2021, that Council will not only be faced with a growing shortfall, it will be forced to deal with it during an evergreen period that we are actively reaffirming today. That's not fiscally responsible.
Health care costs, which have risen at a rate several times faster than city revenues, now have some cost sharing. However, the city's share will continue to significantly outpace our peer cities, and the imbalance between uniformed and non-uniformed employees is by order of magnitude. Members continue to pay zero premiums in both plans, dependents in only one. That's not fiscally responsible.
Even the legal fund, which had become symbolic of the problems with the previous collective bargaining agreement, is removed by this settlement, but only if the fire union also agrees to that provision. Expecting that to happen is symbolic of the dysfunction in the current settlement; expecting the fire union to cut the legal fund while also agreeing to a lesser contract overall to address the shortfall caused by the police union settlement. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not fiscally responsible.
Mayor, in bringing us this deal, you have ignored the goals we established for the health of this city -- from fiscal accountability to procedural police reform. We have been told that we have to pass this contract in order to restore public trust, but we missed an opportunity to put systems in place that people can trust.
A bad deal is worse than no deal. Mayor, this deal plays politics instead of protecting San Antonio's long-term health. I cannot in good conscience leave this to future Councils to fix, so I am voting no.
Thank you, Mayor."
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