HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Residents in the City of Houston got an opportunity to hear from Mayor Sylvester Turner and other officials about two propositions that will be on the November 6 ballot. One in particular, the firefighters salary referendum, has been the center of much debate.
Wednesday's meeting was the first of ten that registered voters are encouraged to attend in each of the districts in the City of Houston. Proposition B would give voters the option to pass a 25 percent increase in pay for Houston firefighters -- an increase that our city officials say they can’t afford.
“The City of Houston is not in the position to pay any employee group to give them a 25 percent pay raise,“ says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
$98 million a year is the city’s estimate in order to bring firefighters salary up to what police officers earn. The city isn't denying that firefighters deserve more money, but it’s a hefty sum that will cost hundreds of jobs among other things.
HFD Chief Samual Pena tells FOX 26, “that’s only one of the many items that we need to address in this organization. You know there’s all the operational needs, the cost of fleet, the replacement of fleet, the professional development for our firefighters. Now all those things are, all those items need to be addressed and this initiative only addresses one item.“
Currently, a firefighter in their first year earn about $43,000 a year compared to a police cadet earning $42,000. The real difference is when they make their way up the ranks. A fire captain can earn about $64,000 a year while a police captain can earn between $103,000 and $111,000 a year.
The union members for the Houston firefighters were not present at the meeting, but stand by their statement that the city has sabotaged efforts to reach a new contract. They said: “Now, the mayor manufactures a budget emergency that few even bother to scrutinize. It may be good political theater, but it’s vindictive and misleading.“
A 9.5 percent salary increase from the city is still on the table, but in the end it’s up to the voters. Many in the meeting seemed to be against the proposition. Tomaro Bell says, “To ask the tax payers who have been burdened by Harvey for a 25 percent raise is irrational. This should not even be on the ballot because they had opportunity after opportunity as the mayor discussed earlier to get pay raises and they declined them.“
There will be nine other town hall meetings in other districts:
Monday, Sept. 10 – District H – Moody Park, 3725 Fulton, 77009
Wednesday, Sept. 19 – District J – Sharpstown Community Center, 6600 Harbor Town, 77036
Thursday, Sept. 20 – District B – Kashmere MSC, 4802 Lockwood, 77026
Monday, Sept. 24 – District A – Trini Mendenhall Community Center, 1414 Wirt Road, 77055
Wednesday, Oct. 3 – District D – Sunnyside Metropolitan Multi-Service Center, 9314 Cullen, 77051
Thursday, Oct. 4 – District I – EB Cape Center, 4501 Leeland, 77023
Monday, Oct. 8 – District F – Alief Community Center, 11903 Bellaire Blvd., 77072
Wednesday, Oct. 17 – District K – Fountain Life Center, 14083 S. Main, 77035
Thursday, Oct. 18 – District G, Walnut Bend Recreation Center, 10601 Briar Forest, 77042
Early in-person voting starts Oct. 26.