by SEAN KIMMONS
When the Kyle City Council approved a two percent cost-of-living pay adjustment to its full-time city employees this fall, Kyle police officers thought they’d be getting the extra cash as well.
Months later, they still haven’t received a penny, generating frustration within the police force.
“As of now the Kyle police has not got their two percent cost-of-living increase,” a visibly upset Officer Jesse Espinoza, president of the Kyle Police Association, said during public comments at a council meeting last week. “We believed that we were getting the increase based on the budget.”
City officials argued that the officers were left off the pay raise because in April it accepted a KPA request to meet and confer negotiations toward a labor agreement with the city.
To appease the officers, the city came up with an interim agreement in November to give them the pay increase and other compensation. Nevertheless, the KPA declined it.
On Dec. 15, Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis asked the city council to approve a resolution offering the same benefits as the interim agreement. In the meantime, a final compensation package would then be hashed out to be effective on Oct. 1, 2010.
“We’ve had some issues moving forward with this,” Mattis said. “The two percent raise has become a roadblock to our meet-and-confer process.”
“It is our pledge, despite frustration that has manifested itself in personal attacks, to maintain the focus in gaining our professionalism and moving forward,” he added.
Mayor Mike Gonzalez said that the resolution’s benefits, which after some contention were unanimously approved, would help make the city competitive as it tries to hire more officers.
The pay increase would push the base pay of a new Kyle officer past $40,000, he said.
“Regardless of the back and forth, civil service is treated differently than city employees,” he said. “Law enforcement is a priority and it should continue to be.”
Any appropriation of funds in order to pay for these benefits won’t be voted on until Jan. 5.
“This is a resolution, not an appropriation,” Gonzalez said. “It gives us a broader look to see how much financial impact it would be.”
Before the vote, a majority of the councilmembers sided with the officers’ confusion on the pay increase.
Councilmember Lucy Johnson questioned the resolution’s effectiveness in the meet-and-confer process.
“How does this help move the process if they already declined the interim agreement?” she asked. “I want us to come up with an agreement that both of us can agree to.”
Mattis stressed that the KPA offered no counter offer to the city’s interim agreement.
“We’re not the ones pulling this back,” he said. “I don’t understand the resistance.”
Councilmember David Wilson then said that he also thought the budget’s pay raise included the officers.
“Let’s get that off the table and move on,” he said.
Because of meet-and-confer rules, KPA officials declined to comment following the council meeting.
However, Mike Sheffield, a representative of the Cleat organization that is advising the KPA, said simply: “We’re also looking to go forward.”
Last May Kyle voters approved civil service rules, similar to unionization, for the Kyle Police Department.
Sean Kimmons is senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership with the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print