City employees not happy with Raleigh's budget proposal
Posted June 2, 2009 6:08 a.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2009 8:32 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The Raleigh City Council heard concerns from police officers, firefighters and other city workers over the fiscal 2009-10 budget at a public hearing Tuesday evening.
City Manager Russell Allen has proposed a $696.2 million budget that would cut 85 vacant positions to eliminate a projected $20 million shortfall.
The budget proposal caps the annual merit raise at 4 percent for employees that have been on the job for five years or less. Employees with six years of service or more, would be eligible for a smaller merit raise, or no raise at all. The proposal also raises health insurance premiums for city employees.
"What message do you send police officers when you ask them to work harder, but fail to reward them for their dedication and commitment to our city?" said Rick Armstrong, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association.
"(City workers) will not receive any merit adjustment (or) cost-of-living raise, and their insurance is going to go up. So, their check will be less next year than it is this year," Armstrong said. "I think there's a lot of frustration there."
The public workers said they are upset about the cuts, given that Allen recently received a 4.75 percent raise.
"We feel like there is money in the budget that can be found and appropriated for a very modest raise," said Keith Wilder, president of the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association.
The Parks and Recreation Department would take the biggest hit in Allen’s proposal, losing 27 open positions. The city would also cut operating hours and maintenance at community centers, public pools, parks and greenways.
The budget proposal also cuts positions in the Inspections and Public Works departments.
"People can't afford this new budget. It is ridiculous," sanitation worker Eddie Edgerton said.
Allen said the cuts, along with savings in travel and training, holding off on replacing older vehicles and capping pay raises for city workers at 4 percent, would save Raleigh about $15.1 million in operating costs and $10 million in capital spending.
During a down economy, Mayor Charles Meeker said Raleigh employees are lucky things aren't worse.
"Raleigh is fortunate we are talking about some increases as opposed to laying people off,” Meeker said.
The proposed $384.5 million operating budget would be 0.7 percent less than the 2008-09 operating budget.