Raleigh leaders pass budget that omits higher raises for police and firefighters

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Firefighters and police officers who pushed for higher pay in Raleigh will not get the raises they sought, after the city council took its final vote on the budget Monday afternoon.

The vote took some of the firefighters and police officers by surprise.

They’d planned to rally outside City Hall again Tuesday morning before the council met again.

Council members say they’d reached a point where they were ready to take the vote Monday.

The vote was unanimous. The $858 million budget takes effect July 1.

It includes pay raises for city employees of 3 to 3.5 percent, but police and firefighters had pushed for a minimum of 7 percent.

They say that’s to make up for not getting raises in recent years and rising health costs.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane says it was time for the city to move forward with the vote, but some police officers and firefighters were disappointed.

“We’ve done this almost every year. We’ve had budget work sessions. It’s not uncommon for us to vote on it. We’ve had budget notes all along. We’ve talked about them, and everything that’s been on there has been a budget note that we’ve discussed in the past,” said McFarlane.

McFarlane noted the city is in the process of doing a comprehensive study on salaries across city government.

“We can’t afford to wait, to kick the can down the road,” said Raleigh Police Det. Matt Cooper. “Morale has been damaged because we’re entering a crisis for staffing.”

Firefighter Christopher Ferrell echoed Cooper’s sentiments.

In a statement to CBS North Carolina, he said, “We are disappointed that the City Council chose to unexpectedly approve the budget during today’s work session.  With considerable opposition in regards to first responder pay, further dialogue was needed before making a decision that affects the lives of so many of Raleigh’s first responders and their families.  We will continue our efforts to address disparities that exist in our salaries.”

The budget also includes a 2-cent property tax increase, which will be used to pay down debt on the former Dorothea Dix hospital property and to increase the number of affordable housing units in the city.

Budget Statement from Raleigh Firefighters United

We are disappointed that the City Council chose to unexpectedly approve the  budget during today’s work session.  With considerable opposition in regards to first responder pay, further dialogue was needed before making a decision that affects the lives of so many of Raleigh’s first responders and their families.  We will continue our efforts to address disparities that exist in our salaries.

– Raleigh Firefighters United

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