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Raleigh firefighters, police demand larger raises

Posted June 7

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— Hundreds of Raleigh police and firefighters and their supporters packed City Hall Tuesday night during a Raleigh City Council budget hearing, saying a proposed merit raise for city employees isn't enough compensation for their ranks.

City Manager Ruffin Hall last month proposed an $858.6 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, including an average raise of 3.25 percent for city workers.

Firefighters called for a 7 percent raise, saying starting salaries in the Raleigh Fire Department are less than they were 30 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

Supporters carrying signs saying "We can't afford to live in the city we protect" and "Would you do this job 56 hours a week for $11.22 an hour?" filled the City Council chambers, all overflow rooms and the City Hall lobby.

City leaders sat attentively as several people, including firefighter Jennifer Paterson, shared their stories.

“I proudly stand here today doing the profession that I hoped I’d have the ability to do but I’ve got to be honest with you, putting on the uniform every day is becoming increasingly difficult,” she said.

Keith Wilder, president of the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association, said at least seven city firefighters receive public assistance because they cannot make ends meet on their salaries.

"For the professional, compassionate and heroic services these dedicated professionals provide to our citizens, one Raleigh firefighter receiving public assistance is one too many," Wilder said, adding that Raleigh leaders shouldn't be afraid to add "best-paid city employees" to its list accolades from recent years.

Raleigh police likewise said their ranks needed more than the proposed merit raise. Jamie Rigsbee, local chapter president of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, said officers deserve to see their pay go up by 5 to 10 percent, noting other area police departments have higher starting salaries.

Matthew Cooper, of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, said officers have met increased challenges of a growing city without proper pay.

“Neighboring municipalities during this time have dramatically increased the salaries of their police force. In most cases, offering salaries and compensation packages that greatly eclipse what is currently being offered by the city of Raleigh,” he said.

Police and firefighters said Raleigh ranks at the bottom in terms of pay when compared to the neighboring towns of Cary, Apex and Morrisville. Councilman David Cox spoke with firefighters and police officers before the meeting and said he is concerned that they are tempted to go to other municipalities.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin agrees there should be a salary increase, but believes the city council must do their homework before it is approved.

“We have a perspective that we have to do it fairly within this compensation study,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the goal is to make sure the compensation study is done next year so that the city has a new plan in place to address the concerns. The pay study, however, was met with concerns.

“To tell officers and employees that you’re doing a pay study is like saying the check is in the mail, but is there really a check,” said Rigsbee.

14 Comments

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  • Heather Scanlon Jun 8, 2016
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    these people risk their lives every day to do a thankless (obviously, reading most of these comments) job. Most firefighters have a second and third job along with their spouse's income just to make ends meet. Most of them do the job because they have a passion for it. Most of them are well educated, with much more than "just a high school degree". Why should my loved one risk his life, health, and well-being to help you or your family in an emergency? I honestly don't know, most don't appreciate it. I worry everytime he goes to work that he might not come home, but try farming that job out to "the private sector". He and his crew respond to your burning house, your elderly mother who fell and broke her hip, and your car accidents when you were too busy texting to pay attention. And he continues to do his job to the highest standard even though his paycheck is a joke. But I'm sure they don't deserve a raise that is greater than the insurance hike that gets slapped on every year.

  • Walt Karas Jun 8, 2016
    user avatar

    Minimally, if a Raleigh firefighter or police officer is married to a teacher, together they should be able to afford the average monthly payment for a 1500 square foot house in Wake County.

  • Perry Masonjar Jun 8, 2016
    user avatar

    Take that attitude in to the private sector and see how well a "demand" of a raise will work. Yeah those property tax increases to pay for education and government services will not affect the citizens at all.

  • Jim Halbert Jun 8, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    Roofers and power line workers don't normally go to work wondering if they're going to be murdered in a random act of violence. In terms of "most dangerous" they may beat out police work. But they don't deal with the same type of danger police do.

  • William James Jun 8, 2016
    user avatar

    Why is it that only the teachers and police are able to get press coverage for being poorly paid? Sure teachers have a hard job, but its also only 10mths; Police have a dangerous job, but far more people die and injured working in farming, power line work, roofing, and machine work, but no one ever talks about them. Policing doesn't even make it into the top ten dangerous occupations, but the ones mentioned above do! Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking police, they most likely deserve a raise, but they are not the only government workers being underpaid.

  • Phillip Mozingo Jun 8, 2016
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    View quoted thread


    and you sir are out of touch with reality. College degree or High School graduate doesn't matter in Law Enforcement or Fire Fighting. All of these guys and gals are doing what other people don't have the guts to do. You say that 3.5% pay raise is good? What about the years they got nothing? Now your huge 3.5% raise just became -3.5%. I don't care if 10 cars show up for a traffic stop if that's what it takes. How about start standing up for those that protect you day and night. I think every police officer, sheriff's deputy and firefighter should start at $38,000 per year with a 3% annual pay raise. It can be justified. We live in a post 9/11 world. Security is expensive. Get over it.

  • Ken Ackerman Jun 8, 2016
    user avatar

    There is no such thing as a "simple" traffic stop.

    Fire Fighters and Police Officers are paid to risk their lives to protect the rest of us. How much is that worth?

    Assuming they get two weeks paid vacation per year $11.22/hr for 56 hr/wk comes out to $36,802/year. If they get more vacation then they will make less than that.

  • Brandy Miller Jun 7, 2016
    user avatar

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    I love the many assumptions here in this post. One being that to 3-4 squad cars are making "simple traffic stops". And you know this for certain because....? Maybe you are psychic? I can assure you that if there is 3-4 squad cars there is a reason. People have no idea what officers deal with and what is really happening out "in the world".

  • Roy Jones Jun 7, 2016
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    Are you for $200,000 additional money for paying past due water and sewer bills $850,000 for fine art project, $1.1 M for updating parks, and $ 5.7 m for affordable housing. If you would like to see wasteful spending go to City of Raleigh web site and click FY17 budget presentation city managers proposal.

  • Barry Eriksen Jun 7, 2016
    user avatar

    Without only high school degrees it sounds like they get decent pay already and I'd like to know where that $11.22 number comes from? Don't they get overtime pay? I don't know why they should complain about a 3.5% raise already budgeted -- that's about double teh inflation rate. Taxes are too high already and I'd rather see Raleigh cut down on some of the waste in RPD first -- how often do you see 3 or 4 squad cars for simple traffic stops? Too often.

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