Today the Express News stated in a column, the City Commissioned projections that Public Safety benefits will consume the entire General Fund budget by 2040. The accurate fact is that the projections developed by the independent actuary retained by the Task Force indicated that if public safety costs in total continue to grow faster than General Fund revenues, they could consume 100% of the General Fund by 2040, or as early as 2024.
The Task Force was formed to study pension and healthcare costs and develop short and long-term recommendations to manage current and future expense. The Task Force recognized that Public Safety Expenses have grown faster than General Fund revenues. It has recommended that the City Council establish policies that assure Public Safety budgets are managed in balance with other City services and General Fund Revenues. Personnel costs and benefits make up 85% of the Public Safety Budget.
On the topic of healthcare, the Task Force conclusions are that uniformed healthcare benefits are richer by a large margin than civilian employees, as compared to peer cities in Texas, and compared to private employers in San Antonio. Last year, Uniform employees paid approximately 9% of their total healthcare expenses and Civilian employees paid 30%. In Austin, both Uniform and Civilian employees paid 36% of total healthcare expenses. The national average for employee expense is 43%. Cities and States across the nation are addressing employee benefit costs to manage the rising cost of healthcare expenses.
Addressing the large gap in the richness of uniformed healthcare benefits as compared to others along with a policy to manage the growth of Public Safety costs as recommended by the Task Force will allow the City to maintain a healthy balance of services within the General Fund.