EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — The El Paso City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a collective bargaining agreement with the El Paso Municipal Police Officers' Association that will increase officers' pay.
"Your negotiations are a fantastic way for the city to say we appreciate you, we love you, we love what you do," said City Council Rep. Henry Rivera.
"When you can make more money at big box stores than wearing a badge, there's an issue," said city council representative, Brian Kennedy. "We're a safer city when there's more badges on the street and I think that's what this does."
The proposed four-year agreement includes across-the-board pay raises and annual cost-of-living increases. Some of the salary increases include:
The city management team also recommended an increase in pay for cadets of $10,000. This increase is not a part of the CBA, as cadets are not police officers until they finish training.
"We wanted to entice more officers to come into the department and also, we are losing a lot of officers between 7 to 9 years. So we wanted to also incorporate money for them so that we can keep them," said Victor Vela, El Paso Police Officers' Association vice president.
Cadets will get a 13% increase when they become police officers and a 2.5 percent increase each year after.
The EPMOA approved accepting the proposed agreement on March 19.
More than 1,000 association members voted in favor of the new agreement and 10 members voted against it.
The agreement period is from September 1, 2023, through August 31, 2027.
The work we have done with the City’s finances over the last 8 years including creating a fund balance of 91 days, stabilization funds, and pension stabilization funds, has enabled us to invest in our workforce in order to truly compete with peer cities. This agreement will help us retain experienced officers and attract new recruits by paying in first or second place for officer pay in all category levels when compared to peer cities,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “We have replaced equipment, vehicles, and motorcycles; and we have increased the number of officers with the 2015-16 Hire 300 Plan. We have also increased staffing with more training academies budgeted each year since the passage of the 2015 Strategic Plan. These recommendations that the Council approved today demonstrate how well a strategic plan can work for an organization our size. We are a $2 billion organization with almost 7,000 people and we need big solutions for these big challenges. The strategic plan placed a high priority on getting our finances in order and this transformation has allowed us to focus on community priorities that include police, fire, streets, public transit, and our parks, libraries, and museums. Likewise, the plan has positioned us to invest more in our workforce to ensure we are providing the best services to the public.
The city’s police and fire departments make up about 60 percent of the city's overall budget at about $305.7 million for Public Safety in FY 2023.
Gonzalez said the City of El Paso is able to pay for the increases with the help of funds they have set aside.
"We have a rate stabilization fund, we have a pension stabilization fund and we also recommended to the council that in April we are going to come back with a pay-for-futures fund that gets ahead of cost increases in future years in the budget it's going to help pay for the collective bargaining agreement not only for police but for fire," said Gonzalez.
Some people CBS4 spoke to said that they agree with the pay increase and are hopeful it could help bring in new officers to the department.
"I think it's a good idea because they're our first responders," said one person.
"I imagine it will incentive to do a better job," said another person.
"The more economic support they provide, it would be a positive incentive," said another El Pasoan.
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