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Fitch Says It's Reviewing San Antonio's Credit Rating After Charter Amendments Pass 

click to enlarge Fire union officials speak at a press conference during the runup to the charter amendment vote. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Fire union officials speak at a press conference during the runup to the charter amendment vote.
San Antonio voters had their say on the fire union's three proposed charter amendments.

Now the credit rating agencies have their turn.

Fitch Ratings, one of the three largest such agencies, said it's reevaluating the the city's creditworthiness after voters approved two of the three amendments the union placed on the November 6 ballot.

S.A. has enjoyed a top AAA rating from all three agencies for nearly a decade. However, in its press statement, Fitch said Proposition C, which allows firefighters to force contract negotiations into binding arbitration, warrants an evaluation of city finances next time it seeks to issue bonds.

"Under the revised city charter, the unilateral ability for the union to call for binding arbitration before participating in any good-faith labor negotiations is likely to reduce the city's ability to control its expenditures," Fitch said in a press statement attributed to Senior Director Jose Acosta.

If Fitch and other agencies lower San Antonio's ratings, that signals it will pay more next time it issues bonds to improve infrastructure, develop new parks or other amenities.

The other union-backed proposition approved by voters caps the salary of future city managers and imposes term limits on the position. A rejected third rejected measure would make it easier for voters to mount petition drives to overturn city council decisions.

All three amendments were largely viewed as firefighters' payback to the city for stymied contract talks. Now, signs are that payback may be literal —  as the city grapples with higher interest rates when it looks to finance growth.

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January 26, 2022

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