AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After months of negotiation between the city of Amarillo and the Amarillo Police Officers’ Association, the Amarillo City Council recently approved the meet and confer labor agreement between the two entities, setting the stage for compensation for Amarillo police officers through the next three years.
This agreement is set to begin Friday (Oct. 1) and is expected to expire Sept. 30, 2024, with the possibility for the agreement to be extended one year. Jared Miller, the city manager for the city of Amarillo, said the agreement includes increases to base pay for officers:
- 3% in year one;
- 5% in year two;
- 4% in year three.
Miller said the agreement also modifies the department’s supplemental shift differential pay for officers working evening/night shifts or weekends, increasing to 3% of the officer’s base salary in year one.
The agreement also includes an annual leave buyback program for officers with more than 10 years of continuous service with the Amarillo Police Department, allowing officers to be able to sell back 40 hours, or one week, of annual leave at the officer’s base hourly rate. This program would begin in year two and continue in year three, Miller said.
“This has been a multi-month negotiation and I want to complement the association’s representatives and its entire membership,” Miller said during Tuesday’s meeting. “As the President of the association said, everyone brings a variety of perspectives to the table but the proof is how we work together with different perspectives to come to work a way forward, where everyone’s on board… Council has discussed this on numerous occasions in executive session and what we have in front of you now is exactly consistent with all of the most recent discussions in executive session.”
Toby Hudson, the president of the Amarillo Police Officers’ Association, said the last time a meet and confer labor agreement was passed was four years ago with another iteration of the Amarillo City Council. This gives the association the opportunity to meet with city officials, negotiating labor terms.
Through this process, Hudson said the association hears concerns from officers, and brings those concerns to the city of Amarillo, developing a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties. While the majority of officers from the department are a part of the association, all officers with the department had a say on whether the agreement passed or not.
“There was a lot of work and a lot of negotiation back and forth. We are always looking to benefit our members,” Hudson said. “We are looking to benefit the community because as police officers, and as members of the APOA, that’s what we are here for. We are here to serve Amarillo and what we want for the best interest of our officers is also for the best interest of the people who we serve. We want to be able to retain officers. We want to recruit quality officers and we want to keep them here in Amarillo versus outsourcing them to other places.”
Hudson said the association agreed to delay some increase in compensation to officers until year two because of their belief in the Parks and Recreation updates the city is looking to fund.
However, the compensation portion of this particular meet and confer labor agreement is dependent on the upcoming November election. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, city officials approved a tax rate of $0.48404 in August, triggering the election. The extra revenue would go towards parks improvements, additional support for first responders and street improvements.
If voters do not approve the increased tax rate in November’s election, the tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year would result in the voter approved tax rate of $0.44334, a figure mandated by Texas law. While the tax rate would still be higher, Miller said this would impact the agreement between the two entities.
“Council has the authority to make adjustments to the agreement in the case that the voter-approval tax election modifies the city’s ability to meet its funding under the agreement. This is going to be something that every city across the state, that has meet and confer or collective bargaining agreements with their associations, be they fire, police or general… employees. It is a reality that we face from 2019 on,” Miller said during the meeting. “We have to write in an accommodation in the event that any component of the agreement was subject to a voter approval tax rate election, and that election failed, we have to be able to acknowledge that we have to be able to make sure that whatever our agreement is, we have the ability to fund it. Either, our funding changes as a result of the agreement or the agreement changes as a result of an unsuccessful voter approval tax rate election.”
Hudson said he hopes Amarillo residents understand the necessity for this increase.
“Of course, we support that tax rate increase because we know what it means for the parks, we know what it means for the street department and we know what it means for the police and the firefighters in the city,” he said. “We are always going to look for the best interest of the city as a whole and of course, we want our members compensated.”
Where the agreement is currently, being dependent on November’s vote, would put Amarillo police officers at a compensation level to a degree that other officers have across the state of Texas.
“We live in a really police-friendly environment here in Amarillo,” Hudson said. “We are very thankful for that and we don’t take that for granted. However, we are underpaid for most cities our size in Texas. So, we appreciate the city being willing to negotiate with us and try to get us up to par with everyone else. We hope the voters see that too.”
The last day to register for November’s election is Oct. 4. Early voting begins on Oct. 18 and Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 2.