Local News

Tax hike suggested for raising Raleigh police pay

Posted June 3, 2008 10:54 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2008 6:18 a.m. EDT

— In front of a packed crowd, nearly 40 Raleigh police officers attended the city's public budget hearing Tuesday evening to ask taxpayers for a raise.

"I think public safety is a priority,” Rick Armstrong, with the Raleigh Police Protective Association said. The group looks out for the interests of more than 400 officers.

Their proposal would tack an additional $366,000 onto the proposed $643 million city budget. The money would be used to boost the salaries of officers with college degrees.

"Fifteen-hundred dollars for a bachelor's degree, $750 for an associate's degree," Armstrong said. "It's important that we remain competitive with these other police departments. We have a serious retention issue."

City Manager Russell Allen tried to resolve that retention problem with a 5 percent salary increase for new officers and firefighters. A lateral entry program was also designed to give better pay to officers with experience.

In North Carolina, Raleigh police pay is competitive, but nationally, it is 5 to 10 percent below average, Chief Harry Dolan said.

"It seems government wants to help us out by raising our taxes,” Raleigh resident Gerry Coleman said.

Coleman referred to the 5-cent property tax hike already included in the budget and discussed during Tuesday's hearing.

Allen's budget would set Raleigh's tax rate at 38.17 cents per $100 assessed value. Last year's tax rate was 43.5 cents, but city officials rolled it back to 33.17 cents to be revenue-neutral after Wake County's property revaluation.

The 5-cent increase would add $75 to the annual tax bill of a $150,000 house.

Allen said half of the tax increase is earmarked for paying down debt on bonds approved for city parks and for capital projects like widening streets and building a new law enforcement center downtown.

The city also needs more money to pay for services because of the slowing economy and rising costs, Allen said, noting city revenues are about $5 million below projections.

Residents cautioned council members about tax increases.

"It's my family's money. When you take more out of my pocket, my family has to make do. I'm asking you be careful and responsible with my family's money," Victor Marks said.

About $3.2 million in new spending would be dedicated to public safety, including higher salaries for police officers and firefighters, 12 new police officers and the construction of a new fire station.

The proposed budget also includes 35 new employees at the downtown convention center, scheduled to open this fall, and 24 more employees for the municipal water and sewer system. Allen also called for a 15 percent increase in water and sewer fees paid by local customers.