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Do Durham Taxpayers Want to Give Council a Hefty Pay Raise?

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DURHAM — Imagine getting a 37 percent pay raise ... more than a third of your salary added to it. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Now imagine your tax money goes to give someone else that big raise. That's what may happen in Durham, and many people aren't happy about it.

The eight city council members who voted in favor of the big raise say they can't believe the public outcry. Almost everyone else can't believe the council ever proposed a pay hike that big.

At this point, It looks like public opinion has won out. A compromise will be put on the table at Monday night's meeting.

Workers sweating it out in Durham's fleet maintenance shop, get a pay raise of less than three percent in the proposed city budget. You don't have to go far to find people who think the city council needs to rethink it's priorities.

"Mass transit could use that money because that's definitely lacking," says Durham resident Tommy Holder. "They could also use that money to overhaul the streets and that's nothing to say of the money they need for the school budget."

"It's a $4,000 increase," says resident Lamont Grissom. "It's supposed to be just something to tide them over, not a career. So I think it should be a little more proportionate to the raise normal everyday people get."

There are, however, some "everyday" people who think the council deserves that 37 percent.

"I think if they work pretty hard at it and they work all year I think they deserve it," says resident Sterling Mason. "Yeah, I would think so."

Mayor Nick Tennyson is among the minority on the council that is against the pay raise. He says his colleagues may need to take a broader look at pay for public service.

"Under the question of the pay raise is what is it that the citizen's are paying for," says Tennyson. "What is their expectation of a council member? Has this gone beyond a part-time job? Those are the kind of questions I think we need to sort out."

Councilman Ty Cox, who originally proposed the 37 percent raise, says he'll suggest a reduced pay increase Monday night. He says 37 percent wasn't necessarily a mistake, but that the error was the way the council presented it to the public.