City of Houston

Houston Finance Director: Firefighter Pay Parity Would Cost City Nearly $300 Million

Tantri Emo said the firefighter union’s proposal tying firefighters’ pay to that of police would more than double Houston’s projected budget deficit over the next three years

HPFFA president Marty Lancton at the podium at Houston Fire Department press conference Monday morning, July 17, 2017.

Houston Finance Director Tantri Emo said it could cost the city $295.8 million over three years if voters approve a proposed charter amendment granting firefighters pay parity with police officers of equivalent ranks. Houston City Council is set to decide August 8 whether to put the amendment before voters this November or at a later date.

Emo told the council’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee that Houston is facing a $200 million deficit by fiscal year 2022. She said tying firefighter pay to police pay would more than double that gap.

“This assumes there are no future pay raises for police over the next three years. So the reason why we use three years is…the current contract for police is now at three years,” Emo said.

Under this scenario, Emo projected that granting pay parity would amount to an average 25 percent pay increase for firefighters in the first year. Houston firefighters received pay raises totaling 3 percent in fiscal year 2014. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA), the union representing the firefighters, voted in June 2014 to reject a 4 percent pay increase as too small. This past January, the HPFFA likewise rejected a three-year 9.5 percent pay increase as insufficient.

The union declined to testify at the committee hearing. In a letter to Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston City Council, HPFFA president Marty Lancton called the hearing “a cynical political stunt.”

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Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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