Support Grows for Cuts to Police, Fire Health Care Costs
by Jim Forsyth
All segments of the city are getting involved in the debate over 'legacy costs' and a proposal, first revealed Monday by 1200 WOAI news, to make significant cuts to the health care benefits of active duty police and firefighters to maintain the city's fiscal sustainability.
Richard Perez, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and a former San Antonio Councilman, says there is nothing more important for the strength of the private sector than to have a fiscally sound city government.
"We must ensure the long term fiscal health of our City, demonstrate that we are being financially responsible, in order to meet the future needs of our citizens, while also building a stronger city and wonderful quality of life that we want for our families," Perez said in a letter to Chamber members.
Perez told 1200 WOAI news in an interview that the situation is serious and demands attention.
"If we don't change the path that we're on, it could have a catastrophic effect on our general fund budget," Perez said. "We could then, in effect, push out all other costs that come with running a city like San Antoino."
1200 WOAI news revealed on Monday, in details which are now being copied by other media outlets, that the Williams Commission will report to City Council tomorrow that health care benefits for police and firefighters are the major obstacle to the city's fiscal sustainability, and changes have to be made in that area, which will bring police and firefighters health benefits in line with what is being received by private sector workers in the city, including higher deductibles and much higher employee contributions.
Perez told 1200 WOAI news tha
"It goes without saying that we must compensate our police and fire personnel, as well as all of our non uniformed city employees, in a way that is equitable for all and shows we are taking good care of them and their families," Perez said.
City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who, with her 2014 bonus will make more than the President of the United States, and whose own personal salary has risen 75% in the last seven years, has said she believes the health care paid to local uniformed employees is 'two and a half times' higher than the average for big cities statewide, and must be adjusted.
Perez says all business owners consider firefighters and police officers to be integral to their company, but he said police and firefighters are also integral to companies in Austin, Dallas, and other Texas cities at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers.
The Williams Commission will also recommend changes to police and fire pension programs, as well as wellness programs and other ways to cut skyrocketing health care expenses.