San Antonio:
City Says Budget has "Living Wage" for All

Express-News: Metro and State
City says budget has 'living wage' for all
By William Pack
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 09/05/2001

Temporary workers, who so far have not enjoyed the monetary benefits other employees received through the city's commitment to a "living wage," will not be left out much longer, City Manager Terry Brechtel said Tuesday.

Brechtel, who has been criticized by employee union members for allowing temporary workers to be paid $2 an hour less than the minimum living wage that the City Council mandated this year, told the council she had asked personnel officials to correct the discrepancy in the new budget and to see if temporary employees are being treated in accordance with city rules.

Temporary workers include people hired to fill in for regular employees on leave as well as employees hired for periodic needs, such as special events at the Alamodome and park operations during peak use periods.

Her announcement won backing Tuesday from union representatives and others attending a public hearing on the 2002 fiscal year budget. Mayor Ed Garza added to the endorsements, saying the living wage commitment was an important step for the city to make in 2001 and "now it's time to get it right."

No cost estimate was included in the recommendation, which would apply to hundreds of employees making less than the living wage of $8.25 an hour. The 2002 budget calls for an increase in that wage to $8.50 an hour, and Brechtel said the new pay proposal would ensure that temporary workers benefit from that boost as well.

Another controversial issue that arose in the 21/2-hour public hearing on the proposed budget had to do with planned cuts for senior nutrition centers.

Several speakers pleaded with the council to shore up funding for the centers, which expect to serve 142,000 fewer hot meals to senior citizens in the coming year because of federal funding cuts and increased costs for transportation and food.

Tuesday's hearing was the first of two that will be held on the $1.4 billion annual budget that Brechtel has proposed for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

In addition, a public hearing on the proposed property tax rate needed to fund the budget - 57.98 cents per $100 valuation - will be held as part of the council's regular meeting Thursday. The second and last public hearing on the budget will be held Sept. 20, the day that the council will vote on the budget.

More than 50 speakers came forward at the first hearing, some thanking the council for support that was provided in the proposed budget but most asking for a cut of the new budget or for more than had been earmarked.

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 100, which had raised the issue about pay for temporary employees, said proposed boosts for temporary workers were overdue and argued that the 3 percent raises planned for other non-uniformed staff members should be increased.

Brechtel's consolidated budget is 17 percent larger than the city's current budget. But it includes a $319.8 million capital improvement budget that, fattened by funds for terminal renovations at San Antonio International Airport, is almost 58 percent larger than the current capital budget.

The city's general fund, which is the largest single operating fund and the only fund outside the capital budget that is backed by property tax revenue, would grow by nearly 5.5 percent if the proposed spending plan is approved. The proposed general fund total is $599.9 million. It would not require a tax rate increase.

Growing property valuations in the city and recent annexations should still push property tax revenues up by almost $11 million, analysts predict.