Turner agrees to 7 percent raise for police weeks before fire pay vote

Members of the firefighters union bring petitions to city hall on July 17, 2017. (KTRK)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed to a 7 percent pay increase for police officers just weeks before a Houston referendum vote to determine whether firefighters deserve comparable pay for similar ranks.

Turner announced some of the details of the pay raise at Wednesday's city council meeting.

The two-year agreement with police will cost the city $52 million and goes into effect July 1, 2019.

Turner has skipped few opportunities to tell the public that the fire referendum vote, appearing on ballots in November as Proposition B, amounts to a 25 percent pay increase for firefighters and would cost $98 million. The HPFFA refutes that number but hasn't provided its own analysis to ABC13.

"If it passes, it's going to be ugly," Turner told reporters after the meeting. "There are no good outcomes."

The timing of Turner's agreement raised eyebrows in City Hall as the tension between the mayor and the fire department rises as the vote nears. The $52 million for police was budgeted, affordable and the first and only offer given to the police union in talks, Turner said. They agreed without negotiation, Turner said.

"I can't stop governing until November 6," Turner said.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association have been without a pay increase since its last agreement in 2011 that bumped pay just one percent over three years. Its leadership argues firefighters should be brought up to par with the raises its missed over the last eight years.

Turner is quick to point out fire officials rejected raises offered as part of other negotiations since 2011.

This time around, HPFFA spearheaded the referendum initiative by gathering tens of thousands of signatures that put the issue of pay equality between firefighters and police in front of voters to decide.

If approved by voters and not held up by subsequent legal action, the measure would match fire jobs with similar police jobs and give them equal pay. Several Texas cities, including Dallas, have 'pay parity' policies on the books already.

Turner said the 9.5 percent raise he's offered remains on the table, however, wouldn't say if the offer would withstand voters turning down Prop B.

When pressed, Turner smiled and repeated that the offer remains "on the table today."

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