The city of San Antonio is preparing to go to war against the police and fire unions over their collective bargaining agreement. The city manager has advised the public that if police and fire compensation, especially including the pension and medical costs, continue to grow as expected under the current arrangements, then that compensation will consume 100% of the city’s operational budget with in the next two or three of decades.
Obviously, something has to be done, but the unions are stubbornly insisting that the city should find cuts elsewhere. The obvious question for the unions – how can you cut elsewhere if the police/fire budget eventually consumes 100% of the city’s budget? Cutting elsewhere would only put off the eventual day of reckoning.
The unions’ fallback position is that the city should grow its budget by raising taxes. Even San Antonio’s callow politicians concede that that idea is a nonstarter.
Nowhere is there any talk about paying the police/fire unions a reasonable, fair amount of compensation. Rather, the power of the unions has the city leaders agreeing to pay as much as the city can afford without gutting other city services or raising taxes.
On Facebook today, the SAPD posted some photos of a cop spending some “break” time in a playground working with an underprivileged kid. I commented that we can expect to see a lot of this anecdotal stuff from police/fire to support the notion that San Antonio should pay these uniformed men and women as much as we can possibly afford. I also suggested that, based on my anecdotal interactions with the San Antonio police, I seriously doubt that residents of the city receive especially good service from these public servants.
Anecdotal evidence is not a good way to evaluate service. From my experience in the insurance industry, I know that companies collect metrics that enable management to compare the quality of service over time and amongst various companies. I wonder if San Antonio has any metrics that compares the quality of the service the city is currently receiving to that in other cities, both in and out of Texas.
Of course, the quality of that service will not have a direct effect on the amount of compensation provided to police/fire employees, but it will give residents a more realistic understanding of the issue.