San Angelo Police Union Storms Out of City Negotiations Over Inadequate Pay Raise
SAN ANGELO, TX — This morning, representatives of San Angelo Coalition of Police (SACOP) stormed out of a Meet & Confer Meeting after about 10 minutes of discussion. Meet & Confer sessions are when the City manager's staff and the police union negotiate police issues like pay.
The union wants more money for police officers’ salaries by reinstating step raises based upon years in service.
Right now, an officer in the same rank and position with five years experience takes home the same pay as an officer just hired for the same position (or just promoted to it).
The City Council has placed constraints on the City of San Angelo staff to keep the property tax rate the same for FY 2018. At the same time, the City staff extended a 1-percent pay raise for all officers, but proposed to give some firefighter positions greater increases. Firefighters aren’t organized with a Meet & Confer structure, and have been slightly neglected while the police have fought tough with what is effectively collective bargaining to obtain raises, especially over the past four years.
Police salaries were an issue earlier this year when the City Council overrode a City staff recommendation and gave the police a substantial pay raise that was promised in 2014. The delayed raise was intended to increase police pay to be within 95 percent of police salaries in comparable cities such as Abilene.
The City staff placed a caveat into the 2014 pay raise agreement that stated sales tax revenue should remain the same. The oil bust of 2015-2016 drastically decreased city sales tax collections, and the City staff argued for the Council to abide by the caveat and offer a less expensive bonus to officers in lieu of a permanent pay raise. Council denied that action and forged ahead with the permanent, and for taxpayers a more expensive, raise.
Wilson added that the caveat is structured into the Meet & Confer master agreement between the City and SACOP for all deals. "The caveat was that if the city lacked the financial resources, it was not obligated to fund the raises. Under state law, that clause is in every Meet & Confer contract to ensure cities aren't bankrupted by the obligation," he said.
The City stated the staff has already committed $1.075 million for police pay raises for FY 2018. That figure includes the $635,960 annual expense for the 2014 delayed raises, $319,815 for five additional officers, and $119,473 for an across-the-board 1-percent pay raise for all officers.
“Today, the average police officer earns $57,950 in base pay. With incentive pay for college degrees and continuing education, plus pay for special assignments, total earnings for police officers average $61,126 per year,” City Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson stated.
City staff maintains that if the police union will work within the confines of items that can be negotiated, the two sides can make and agreement. One idea is to forego the addition of five officer positions in FY 2018, something that Police Chief Frank Carter fought hard to get.
That would free up $319,815 for funding step pay increases SACOP desires.
Chief Carter, however, facing a growing city and managing a dynamic crime environment will not budge. We asked him if he will give up the five positions to get step pay increases.
“I will not and when I spoke to Sgt. Doug Thomas last Friday, who is in charge of Meet & Confer on the police side, I told him the 5 bodies were not up for negotiation,” Carter said.
The police contract is up Sept. 30. The only way City staff sees of bridging the impasse is if Council steps in and agrees to spend more money, and possibly raise property taxes to fund police step pay increases.
Generally, all revenue from property taxes collected by the City goes towards public safety. Sales tax and enterprise revenue from City businesses such as the water works fund everything else. Wilson said although property taxes were imposed years ago primarily to finance public safety (fire and police), it is insufficient today. Fire and police are supplemented with sales tax collected. Some enterprise funds, such as water, legally cannot be used to finance other purposes, Wilson added.