Houston City Council completed the last remaining step of an eight-year-long legal battle between the city of Houston and the Houston Professional Fire Firefighters Association.

What happened

Council members voted unanimously June 17 to approve the $650 million collective bargaining agreement that has been under debate since the details of the settlement were released to the public in March.

Council’s approval of the agreement was the last step in finalizing the deal after the bond issuance was already approved June 12, and the agreement was certified by the city controller’s office June 17 after a two-week hold.

The $650 million settlement includes funding the back pay owed to firefighters who worked without a contract for eight years as well as the new contract between the city and the union that includes items such as pay raises, incentive pay and training.

The firefighters' new contract will remain in effect until fiscal year 2028-29.

Breaking it down

With interest and debt service, city officials said the total cost of the settlement is around $1.5 billion, which is expected take approximately 25-30 years to pay off.

While no new revenue sources have been identified to pay off the bond in the coming years, Mayor John Whitmire said he has strong ideas on where the city is going to find the funding for the agreement.

Some options under discussion by council members and Whitmire’s administration include a monthly garbage collection fee and possibly lifting the voter-approved property tax revenue cap.

“I understand that it’s expensive,” Whitmire said. “It was always going to be expensive, ... but we’ve got to get out of the courthouse, and we’ve got to get back to running the fire department because it focuses on public safety. Obviously, it will be challenging to pay for it. No one disputes that, but we can’t afford not too, and it is a reasonable settlement.”

Council also approved the FY 2024-25 budget June 12, which included using nearly $200 million of the city’s historic $420 million savings account to help pay down the cost of the contract.

What they are saying

Council member Willie Davis described the $650 million price tag as painful and sacrificial, but needed.

“It is painful to see a dollar amount like this, but it’s also painful that these men and women of the fire department have worked and sacrificed since 2016,” he said. “They didn’t walk away from their obligation, even though they may have been short of manpower. I think it’s time for us to trust this administration, and I believe in this city.”

The final vote was met with a standing ovation from several Houston firefighters who attended the meeting.

In a later statement, HPFFA President Marty Lancton urged Houston firefighters and their families to relish the well-deserved victory.

“This is a historic day,” he said. “Today’s vote by City Council is not just a resolution of past grievances—it’s a recognition of our sacrifices and a commitment to providing the resources needed to continue serving Houston with dedication and pride.”