Thursday, February 06, 2014

Public safety pensions a looming budget issue

I'm a little late out of the gate on this, but here's an issue most large Texas municipalities will have to struggle with over the next decade, via the SA Express-News (Dec. 31):
Health care benefits for San Antonio's police officers and firefighters are “richer by a large margin” than those of their peers in Texas' other largest cities, so the City Council should consider adjusting them to align more closely, a city task force is expected to recommend.

Among the group's recommendations is that the City Council establish policies that ensure the overall police and fire budgets are managed in a way that their expenses don't crowd out other portions of the city's general fund — such as libraries and parks. The deepest thrust of the task force's efforts addresses the growing expenses in active-duty health care for rank-and-file members of the police and fire departments.

The task force, which concluded its work Monday, was charged with studying the health care and retirement benefits of San Antonio's rank-and-file uniform personnel and their families.

Last August, City Manager Sheryl Sculley proclaimed that the overall public safety budget would consume the entire general fund, which currently is about $1 billion, by 2031 if left unchecked.
I'd like to see the data showing SA cops and firefighters pensions are more generous "by a large margin" than other Texas cities; from what I've heard, Austin and Houston, at least, face similar dilemmas.

RELATED: From the Dallas Observer, "Mixing politics and pensions." Also, Houston is suing the firefighters pension fund in that city in an effort to contain costs, and experts are predicting the Houston police pension fund may fall short sooner than expected.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Austin pays the best, followed by San Antonio, then Dallas, Fort Worth, then Houston. This holds true for direct pay, incentives, and pensions, each of them easy enough to research online.

Houston cut pension benefits to new officers ten years ago, resulting in becoming the employer of last resort for many LEOs, the issue with their pension being the city used the extended payment holiday to waste funds on other projects. The other cities will come to realize they can lower employee costs as long as Houston continues to cut additional amounts in coming years, no wonder their latest academy class has 30 cadets instead of the usual 75.