A series of open letters released within two hours of each other on April 17 made little impact on negotiations between Houston Professional Firefighters Association President Marty Lancton and Mayor Sylvester Turner.
“I’m no closer than I was before,” Lancton said about a potential agreement to implement Proposition B’s voter-mandated pay raises for Houston firefighters.
The two recently re-engaged in talks about how the city could best accomplish pay parity between Houston police officers and firefighters as stipulated in Proposition B. They have yet to agree on a proposal that would avoid 220 firefighter layoffs that are pending city council approval and are necessary to fund the pay raises, according to Turner.
After meeting with Turner on April 12 and April 15, Lancton requested financial data that outlined how the city planned to distribute raises in a manner that established parity between firefighters and police officers of comparable rank.
The latest data released by the city April 17 details how raises are phased in for firefighters of specific ranks and the difference levels of raises for firefighters with less than 18 years of experience and firefighters with more than 18 years of experience. It also includes information about how raises would be awarded incrementally to firefighters with less than 18 years of experience.
These data points, however, do not answer the questions posed by the association, Lancton said.
He said he is still awaiting information about incentive pay based on education level as well as which positions within the fire department will receive raises immediately and which employees will have to hold a position for a certain number of years before receiving a raise.
“He continues to send out the same thing in a different format without answering any of the questions we have about the financial data,” Lancton said.
The mayor’s office released a separate letter April 17 that was sent to city of Houston Controller Chris Brown, answering some questions he posed about how cost estimates were calculated by the city’s finance department. The letter states that the city does not have sufficient data from the Fire Department to determine education-based incentive pay.
The letter also states that changes to the cost estimates of implementing Proposition B can be attributed to a lack of clarity in the measure’s ballot language.
“Prop. B fails to specify how implementation should be achieved,” the letter states.
Brown said both a total estimate for the cost of the raises and an agreement to a phase-in plan will be crucial in determining how to balance the city’s budget ahead of the new fiscal year beginning July 1.
“All those [department]budgets, as they’re presented, we really need to get some accurate numbers because we’re estimating the number of layoffs based on what we think the cost of Prop. B is, and if it’s more, it might mean more layoffs,” Brown said. “It’s really crunch time.”
View all three April 17 letters here.