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Durham property tax might go up for police, firefighter raises

Posted May 30, 2008

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— The city might need to raise property taxes to fund raises for public-safety employees, according to presentations by the city manager and a consulting firm at a crowded meeting on Friday morning.

Representatives of Waters consulting firm and City Manager Patrick Baker recommended a 6-cent increase to pay for raises for police officers, firefighters and other public-safety workers.

Police union leaders said they asked for a $7,000 across-the-board raise to alleviate what they called a tough financial situation for officers.

"An officer should not be in the position to have to decide between the police department that they want to be a part of and supporting their families," Police Chief Jose Lopez said.

Lopez said many of his officers are being recruited by neighboring departments that offer more money, and leaders of police unions agreed with his assessment.

"Because of our pay situation in the past and our pay practice in the past, we have made ourselves a lucrative target for a whole lot of police agencies," said Andy Miller, president of North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance.

The starting salary for a Durham police officer is about $30,000. Officers would have to work for a decade or more to earn the starting salary offered by other cities, Lopez said.

"Our salaries have fallen behind for so long," said David Addison, president of the Greater Triangle Police Benevolent Association.

Underscoring officers' concerns was a crowd in excess of 250 – mostly police and firefighters – at the budget meeting. Dozens of officers sat in the hallways after they were asked to leave the meeting room due to a fire code violation.

City leaders said they recognized public-safety workers' salaries need to go up but questioned how to best do that.

"To see them (police officers) leave for other areas is extremely frustrating and depressing," Councilman Howard Clement said.

The City Council rejected the proposed 6-cent increase, which would have raised property taxes for the owner of a $150,00 home from $750 to $840.

"And that was just intolerable," Clement said.

Council members indicated they would, instead, support a 3- to 4-cent increase to Durham's property tax, set at 50 cents per $100 of a home's value.

"I think we somehow need to show they public we're more efficient in what we're doing in various ways," Mayor Bill Bell said.

Baker must develop a new budget proposal, which he will present to the City Council at another public meeting on June 9. The council has until the beginning of July to adopt a new budget.

24 Comments

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  • raider May 30, 2008

    We seem to accept whopping increases in the price of gasoline without a sniffle, but increase someone's taxes by less than $100/yr (less than 2 tanks of gas right now for most people) and our City council quakes in their boots and back down faster than I don't know what! When is Durham going to elect a council with backbone that will take care of their employees and do what is right for the community?????????????????????

  • Ihaveafewquestions May 30, 2008

    Tell me, what do you do when you hear noises and voices in your back yard at three o'clock in the morning? What do you do when you hear your back door kicked in? You call the same people who are willing to risk their lives (and the well-being of their families) to save yours. I wouldn't talk that way about the people who might pull my lifeless body out of a mangled car. I wouldn't rush to judgement based on media reports from people who are still gathering "all the facts". I'd hope and pray that a decent solution would come through the proper means. Police work a thankless job. They get murderers off the streets, enforce traffic laws (so YOU don't get killed by a bad driver). Every move they make is subject to national scrutiny.....and all for a whopping $30,000. What are we going to do when they decide to use their brains, bravery, and abilities to do another job that pays more money, and comes with less stress. You think things are bad now.....watch what happens if they lea

  • Ihaveafewquestions May 30, 2008

    before you criticize the only thing between you, and the ugly face of violent crime, nuisance problems, and total disorder. By the way, you will not find 1 human on earth that will VOLUNTEER to do this job.

  • miketroll3572 May 30, 2008

    Stop all the social giveaways and they could afford it with no problem.

  • richard2 May 30, 2008

    what happens when the taxpayers run out of money?

  • aintbackingdwn May 30, 2008

    It's all a cover up to pay for Nyfongs defense bill.

  • dws May 30, 2008

    lol, a commission based on tickets.......how lame a police force could that be

  • TheAdmiral May 30, 2008

    dplowman - "They could take some of the Fed. money that they recieve for homland security and pay the officers more."

    And since they don't use it for the purpose of homeland security - they loose that money - so go ahead - the next time they beg the feds will say NO.

  • TheAdmiral May 30, 2008

    The way that I see it is that the county and city governments want to tax - tax - tax more and more.

    What I see is a trend of people saying "We are not responsible - we need to be told what to do - I will pay all that I make for it..." When there are people out here like myself that believe in Life, Liberty, and the persuit of happiness.

    The democrats want you to pay 70% taxes on everything you own because you don't deserve it. Heck, even in the UK, they tax people who make $36,000 at 40%. Why not here? I mean heck - after all - people would rather pay $15,000 more a year in taxes rather than the $5,000 for a sprinker system in their house.

    It is amazing that raises are an issue. I don't think we should have paid people on a meat wagon or on a fire engine. Sorry guys - but for the last 232 years the volunteers have done a fine job with fire and EMT work - and they should be applauded.

  • dplowman May 30, 2008

    They could take some of the Fed. money that they recieve for homland security and pay the officers more. If you hire more experiance you have a better grade of people who have better skills with the people they are trying to serve. Which means a safer and more stable City. But who in goverment would understand that?

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