HOUSTON – On Wednesday, Houston City Council met for the first time since a judge ruled that Proposition B will move forward.
Now, the city has to decide how to add firefighter pay raises into the budget.
Matching rank, experience and educational requirements of firefighters and police officers is one of the first tasks to determining pay parity, according to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
"Parity is not just in terms of title. You've got to look at functionality as well as requirements," Turner said. "It will not be overnight. Because it's not just where you look at rank. You have to look at the requirements. You have to match all of that up. Then you've got all of the employees that you've got to look at in terms of where they are. Whatever the requirements are with HPD, whether there is a corresponding match with fire."
On Tuesday, a judge denied requests from the city and police union to stop Prop B from going into effect while they sue to stop it. That means the city must now offer equal payment to firefighters and police officers.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, Turner predicted passing Prop B would cost about $100 million per year and would require the city to cut hundreds of jobs -- including police officers and firefighters. Turner said those numbers are not set in stone.
"In the end, I've got to make the final decision and I'm going to do my best to minimize the number of layoffs as much as I can. At the same time, we have budget that we have to balance that comes up in May or June," Turner said. "We're going to do everything we can to minimize the layoffs where we can. But as you know, I've got to balance the budget, too. So you've got Prop B, you've got to balance the budget."
The firefighters union said Turner keeps changing the numbers.
"It changes just like the numbers leading up to the election have changed so many different times. I think it's disappointing, especially when the voters, overwhelmingly, over 300,000 of them clearly made their voices heard," Marty Lancton with the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Union said. "Any attempt to destabilize public safety in the city of Houston will be met with the full force of this organization. Because our responsibility is to the citizens of Houston. That's who we work for.”