Progress made, but issue not settled: Mayor, HFD meet to discuss plans for Prop B

HOUSTON – Progress was made, but the Prop B issue is still not settled after the president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held an hourlong meeting on Monday.

HPFFA President Patrick "Marty" Lancton sent a letter before the planned afternoon meeting with Turner. The letter summarized the remaining questions about the implementation of Prop B.

In Monday's meeting, Turner did not release financial information that the union wants. The union believes it will have the information within two days.

After the meeting, Turner sent a letter to Lancton that read in part: "Prop B is very vague and ambiguous on parity. Having said that, the city looks to the requirements a police officer must meet to attain a certain position and pay and applies the same requirements to a firefighter in the same or similar position.

"The city has repeatedly said that we could avoid layoffs of municipal workers and firefighters if Prop B was phased-in 5 years. Anything less than 5 years would require some layoffs without a funding source. Phasing in Prop B over 3.5 years would still require some layoffs, but significantly less than would be required with full implementation."

A vote that was planned for Wednesday on the proposal of 287 firefighter layoffs may be postponed.

“This time, crisis is manufactured by this mayor. We’re the ones who told the public and media two years ago we needed to get this resolved. We needed to have discussions so we would not be put in a position as we have today,“ Lancton said.

On Friday, the union representing Houston firefighters agreed to a three-and-a-half-year implementation of Prop B if the mayor agrees to three stipulations.

  • Any implementation agreement would need to get final approval from the union and be ratified through a collective bargaining agreement.
  • The union would be provided “complete access” to the city’s financial and budget information to ensure both base pay and incentives are paired to that of police officers.
  • No layoffs or reduction of Fire Department staff would happen before, during or after Prop B is implemented.
  • Turner said Prop B, the Houston Fire Department firefighter pay parity proposition that passed overwhelmingly last November but has yet to be implemented, is to blame for recently lost jobs.

    The city said Prop B came without a funding source and adds an annual obligation of $80 million to $100 million to the city’s bottom line. At the same time, the city said it is experiencing a $117 million budget gap.

    By law, the city must balance its budget before the start of the next fiscal year, which is July 1.

    Here is the letter Lancton sent to Turner before Monday's meeting: