On Thursday, August 7, 2014 the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) voted to support a position statement of recommendations outlined by a special Hispanic Chamber Legacy Costs Task Force.
The Hispanic Chamber’s Executive Committee and Task Force reviewed presentations and information from the City of San Antonio, union representatives, as well as information from other community stakeholders regarding this important future costs issue for more than 6 months.
“Our Chamber members understand the importance of a healthy city budget and a strong police and fire department,” said Ramiro Cavazos, SAHCC President & CEO. “Our recommendations should provide a bridge for both City management and police and fire unions to find common ground to control increasing health care costs.”
The Legacy Costs Task Force was composed of a diverse group of insightful Hispanic Chamber members who provided thoughtful and unbiased recommendations to help the Hispanic Chamber arrive at this position.
The Hispanic Chamber believes that independent historical data should be the guide for changes in the plans moving forward. The Hispanic Chamber reviewed the five year history of actual costs and given increases in healthcare benefits of 53% from 2009-2013 it is evident that these present annual increases are not sustainable. The Hispanic Chamber did not use projections nor any forecasts provided to it by the city, police, fire and/or any other sources.
Key recommendations to help the City move forward toward a positive resolution of the City’s present contract negotiations:
- Financial metrics to be considered;
- Maintain public safety costs at a level not to exceed 66% of the general fund budget after consideration of reserves and a balanced budget.
- Appropriately fund various reserves prior to considering the 66% funding level of public safety expenditures in the general fund.
- Any future increase or decrease in benefits should apply equally to both uniform personnel and civilian employees.
- Uniform personnel should help address the increasing health insurance costs faced by the City. The structure of the plans should be moderated and reflective of plans offered for local businesses, other Texas police/fire departments, and civilian City employees.
- To ensure a reasonable financial transition for Uniform Personnel, the City should support a graduated implementation of the new contribution requirements.
- The Task Force understands the importance of the City’s strong credit ratings of AAA. Therefore, it recommends that any future financial considerations to changes in benefits to both uniform and civilian personnel should always be completed and analyzed in light of potential impact to these ratings and the criteria set by those rating agencies.
- The Hispanic Chamber proposes that Ancillary Benefits have an annual dollar cap per uniform employee whereby the employee can pick and choose which benefits they want to take advantage of similar to a “cafeteria style plan”. The Ancillary Benefits that the City has offered has ranged from assisting with Legal Services (unrelated to job performance or claims), reimbursement for education tuition, Optical and Dental Insurance as well as others.
It is important to note that Capital Expenditures similar to what the City of San Antonio was considering to use for the Street Car Project, or any other Capital Expenditure for that matter, are not funds that the City of San Antonio can use for General Fund operating expenditures.
Capital Expenditures are funded separately from General Fund Expenditures and it is time that the issue of whether or not taxpayers want Street Car or Public Safety should not continue. It is neither financially nor legally possible to substitute the funding sources for these two types of expenditures.
For more information, additional recommendations and findings please view the Hispanic Chamber’s position statement at www.sahcc.org.