City, SAPD make strides in proposal to present to City Council

A Meet and Confer was held Thursday morning in the City Hall conference room for the San Angelo Police Department and City of San Angelo each hoping to produce a proposed agreement to present to City Council. 

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Meet and Confer refers to a law passed in 2005 by the Texas Legislature and is  known as Local Government Code 174. The law states firefighters and police officers have the right to organize for collective bargaining as a fair and practical method to determine compensation and other conditions of employment. In 2007, San Angelo police officers agreed to be covered by meet and confer. The fire department did not.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, council approved a motion to authorize City Manger Daniel Valenzuela to negotiate and execute an amendment to the Meet and Confer agreement with the SAPD as necessary.

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The approval allowed Valenzuela to negotiate the contract with the SAPD and for him to negotiate funds, but not commit funds more than $50,000. The City Manager is only allowed to make decisions or approve items under $50,000 – anything more than that amount City Council must decide or approve.

At a previous meeting, it was learned that more than $600,000 would be needed to give the SAPD raises, but it was determined City Council had only $322,000 in their budget to work with and spend.

In addition to pay raises, the SAPD also addressed two additional issues, which they asked to be removed from their contract. One being the physical assessment center, which is mandatory fitness requirements each officer must meet per contractual agreement. The second removal requested by the police department were assessment centers. These centers are used by departments to evaluate skills and knowledge of candidates for a promotion.  A written test was previously used by the SAPD, which decided promotional placement.

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In regard to the physical assessment, Sgt. Rick Tinsley said, “We are the only department in the city that has a mandatory come and take a test type thing and with a contract tied to salaries. We wanted something to take back to say that we agree not to do this until the raises are met.”

Additionally, Tinsley said the psychical assessment is something that is an irritant to some officers. He explained officers do workout on their own daily, but some officers do not choose to do so and for the ones who don’t, it’s “something they are being forced to do.” He feels this is one thing they can present to their members and that it shows a concession on the City’s part.

City officials did not make comment or address the assessment centers request, but both parties decided mutually to move forward with three points in a proposal to members of the SAPD, as well as City Council.

  1. A differed decision on salary increases until April 1, 2017, although Human Resources and Civil Service Director Lisa Marley said there would be no guarantee the money would be in the budget enough to cover the police department pay raises;
  2. Both agreed upon making the fitness program voluntary until the salary increases occur under this contract; and
  3. Commit to presenting to City Council at the next meeting the use of unallocated funds used towards insurance premium increases for next year.

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Marley said the average increase on their health insurance premium is approximately seven percent for all City employees and retirees across the board. However, the employee-only rate is expected to increase from $16.50 to $25, with the allowance of the $322,000 going towards 1,290 City employees.

The premium increase averages to approximately $311,000 and with the approximately $322,000 budget, the amount would cover these costs for all City employees (approximately 800) and retirees (approximately 500.)

Marley said insurance premium offset increase should be know approximately the end of October or in November. Open enrollment is in November, and at that point, a projection of what premiums will be for the upcoming calendar year will be available.

The delaying of pay raises holds no guarantee the police department will receive their pay raises in April, but an agreement between both City and SAPD was made to meet monthly once the negotiation process begins for the next contract.

“Hopefully when March or April approaches, we will have a better understanding of where we will be and hopefully there will be enough funding at that time to give the pay raises,” Marley said.

The City and SAPD agreed the need to keep Meet and Confer ongoing.

Tinsley said, “We feel we are committed to keeping Meet and Confer alive, so we feel we’ve made some movement in the right direction today.”

Tinsley added frustration felt by not having something from the City’s side to present to their members, but now he feels strides have been made to keep this contract alive.

“I will point out that we have done well with Meet and Confer, we’re still not where we want to be as far as salaries go, but we have move forward and we are a much competitive agency now than before Meet and Confer first started.” he said.

Tinsley said although the City will not be giving the police department a pay raise, members of the SAPD need to realize it was not given by malicious intent, it simply has to deal with the fact there  the money is not available in the budget at this time.

“The biggest thing that will ratify this is that we have a target date and we are getting what we feel we are owed. We aren’t saying we are not absolutely going to get raises period, but at least we have an opportunity with our contract and our growth towards competitive cities.” he said.

The worse case scenario made by Marley was the agreement does not get ratified by City Council members, which at that point there would be no Meet and Confer. The best case scenario she predicted is the vote comes through with the agreement passed and sales tax revenues have turned around, then the City can view where the money in the budget stands in hope to grant pay raises.

Reportedly no City employee groups haven complained on the matter of topic with the SAPD wanting raises. City employees are aware they are paid by taxpayer dollars and know every year pay increases are always subject to City Council, officials said. If funds are available, City employees will receive raises accordingly.

Meetings will be held by the SAPD and City on Sept. 27-28 to see what PD members ratify and Sept. 29, results of voting will be stated and both sides will officially sign an agreement to present to City Council.