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SA Fire, Police Union Health Care Increased, Street Projects Cut 

click image In this screenshot from the summer of 2014, San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle announces that the union is building a political war chest. - SAN ANTONIO CURRENT
  • San Antonio Current
  • In this screenshot from the summer of 2014, San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle announces that the union is building a political war chest.

San Antonio City Council members on Tuesday morning voted to amend the budget to increase police and fire health care benefits by $14.2 million.

Street projects scheduled for 2016 to the tune of $9 million were included in the General Fund adjustment, according to a City of San Antonio press release.

There are no layoffs planned because of the move, and vacant positions in the police department will remain at 75, according to the City.

Negotiations between the police and San Antonio began in January 2014 and have dominated headlines and air waves as City Manager Sheryl Sculley, San Antonio Police Officers Association President Mike Helle and San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association President Chris Steele exchanged barbs with each other, creating a contentious and hostile atmosphere.

The firefighters never even went to the bargaining table, and according to the City of San Antonio, it declined eight invitations to participate in collective bargaining negotiations.

"A provision of the police and fire contracts provides that, absent a new agreement, the contracts remain in force until Sept. 30, 2024," a City press release states.

But in the absence of an agreement between the City and the police and fire unions, the matter is heading to court as the City seeks a declaratory judgment to see whether those contracts can be extended for a decade, or Sept. 30, 2024.

"The City and the police union have met since January without reaching an agreement. The fire union has refused to come to the table to bargain. Both public safety contracts expired on September 30 but contain a clause that extends the Collective Bargaining Agreements until 2024,” Sculley said in a November 7 press release. “We believe that a perpetual contract is unconstitutional and infringes on City Council's fiscal responsibility to provide City services to the taxpayers. Elimination of the ‘evergreen clause’ levels the playing field for collective bargaining."

The City amended the General Fund to balance its budget, which is required by law.

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