EL PASO, TX Early voting starts Monday for the May 9 election and El Paso firefighters are trying to avoid a pay cut.
The El Paso Fire Union, Local 51 and the city could not negotiate a contract when it came to health insurance and raises.
With the cities offer, firefighters say they’ll be taking a pay cut.
More than 200 fire fighters and their families lined up a polling place in east El Paso Monday, to cast their vote.
They’re asking the citizens of El Paso to support them and vote “yes” on propositions two and three, which would increase their insurance by 66 percent, instead of the 350 percent increase proposed by the city they’re also asking for a raise to offset the spike an insurance.
KFOX14 took a look at how the firefighters pay compares to other departments across the state.
KFOX14 looked at Texas’ other large departments in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and Houston.
El Paso firefighters are the lowest paid department.
If the proposition does not pass, El Paso firefighters would also be facing the highest insurance premiums in the state.
“It doesn’t keep us competitive with the major cities in Texas,” said Joe Tellez, President of Local 51.
In San Antonio, a rookie firefighter starts off making $10,000 more a year and their insurance premiums are 100 percent covered by the city.
“It may hurt recruiting,” said Tellez.
El Paso Fire is one of only two large departments in the state to be internationally accredited and carry the highest ranking of IOS Class one.
The union argues, with the pay and benefits offered in other cities, the fire department could lose the ability to stay competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining personal.
“We are nationally accredited so that makes us an elite department. So other cities, of course, are looking for our guys because we are the best,” said Joe Tellez, president of Local 51.
KFOX14 asked City Manager Tommy Gonzalez if the fire referendum fails, if the city is concerned firefighters might leave to other cities.
“We believe we are very competitive and we believe we are getting more competitive with this proposal,” said Gonzalez.
The city argues, firefighters receive a 5 percent pay increase on their anniversary.
That is, if they haven’t already reached the salary cap for their rank.
The city wants taxpayers to know what their voting on, if the firefighters proposal passes, homeowners would pay a grand total of around $58 over three years.
The first year it would cost taxpayers $10.
“I think we became very competitive and very aggressive with what we were offering we also have to keep in mind the total costs of operations which this is. And then you look at the quality of life bonds that the citizen voted on they need to understand that’s an increase as well,” said Gonzalez.
KFOX14 received some reports that at different polling places. Firefighters wearing El Paso Fire T-shirts were turned away from the polls.
The Union said they were able to get that cleared up with the County Elections Office.
The County Elections Office said no one wearing an EPFD shirt should be turned away from the polls.