Updated: Council member Corey Branch abstained from voting on the budget note bonus proposal, which counts as a vote in favor. The vote still failed to get the five votes required to pass.
At a budget work session Monday, Raleigh's city council voted to wait until the completion of a citywide employee pay study before considering giving police officers and firefighters a bonus to boost their salaries. Police officers and firefighters turned out to a council meeting en masse last we
Photo from Raleigh Police Protective Association
ek to plead their case
for a pay hike to be included in the upcoming budget.
Council member David Cox requested a budget note directing city staff to look at giving first responders a one-time bonus to bring their starting pay up to local market standards. For police officers he said that would be around $40 thousand a year; for firefighters, around $36 thousand. Cox said that by his estimate, the bonus would cost the city less than $500 thousand in total.
"I look at it as addressing our basic services," Cox said. He noted that the city's attrition rate for RPD officers is 63 percent. "Two of our basic services are police and fire protection."
The council voted 4-3 in favor of the proposal, with Cox and council members Russ Stephenson and Kay Crowder voting in favor. Council member Bonner Gaylord was absent from the session, and the proposal failed to get the five votes required for it to pass.
"I don't think anyone at the table disagrees that our police and firefighters deserve more, they are underpaid," said council member Mary-Ann Baldwin, adding that she had two concerns about the proposal. "First, it's picking one class of employee. The second is I see it as potentially not being a morale booster for all of our employees, but quite the opposite to single somebody out."
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said it would be too complicated from an organizational standpoint to give bonuses to some employees and not others.
"As much as we would all love to do it, we need to do it right," she said.
"We have a party coming up on the lawn at Dix Park, and I think about what happened in Orlando, and I think about reading about what happened to this officer down there who took a shot in the helmet and has injuries to his eyes," Cox said. "To think that we have sworn officers and firefighters on public assistance and we're telling them that we have to wait another year, I find that hard to accept. We need to move forward with something this year."
The citywide pay study has been ongoing for a year already and won't be completed until next spring. Cox said he would like to see the study done by Thanksgiving so the council has time to consider the results.
"It sounds simple and it's an emotional appeal and nobody is saying they don't believe they deserve a higher pay," McFarlane said. "We are spending a lot of money and taking a lot of time to do this the right way and understand the impacts on everybody as we make those adjustments. We are committed to doing it in a fair and equitable way for all employees."