Raleigh police, fire and solid waste employees want bigger raises this year, according to representatives of those groups who spoke out Tuesday during a public hearing about the proposed 2013-14 budget.
The new fiscal year begins July 1. The $705.2 million budget is an almost 5 percent increase from the current budget. The budget includes a 3 percent merit raise for city employees and some new hires, including four new 911 operators and two deputy fire marshals. But no additional firefighters or police officers will be added under the proposal.
The Council chambers were full, with standing room only at the City Council’s evening session. Attendees included representatives from police, fire and solid waste unions, who expressed a strong desire to raise the proposed salary increase of city employees from 3 to 5 percent.
Eric DeSimone, president of the Raleigh Police Protective Association, argued that the pay for Raleigh police officers often compared unfavorably to that of officers in similar-sized cities and regions.
“We do this job because that is what we do, this is who we are,” DeSimone said.“We want to be the ones out there to make a difference, we want to be the ones out there helping.
“The one thing we don’t want to do is struggle financially, or have our families struggle financially anymore,” he said.
According to city records, first class police officers earn around $38,000 or $39,000 per year. A senior officer’s salary is listed at more than $62,000.
DeSimone’s remarks, and those of the other public sector representatives were met with boisterous applause from a crowd that included dozens of city firefighters showing their support for the 2 percent increase.
Two residents, Octavia Rainey and Dwight Spencer, spoke out in favor of increased public transit funding.
Rainey also expressed a desire for a change in leadership at Capital Area Transit, which she argued does not appear to care about its passengers, comparing the Moore Square bus station to a “prison camp.”
Spencer also voiced his distaste for Moore Square, calling it a “ghetto,” and said increased funding should be allocated for better upkeep of the property.
“I’ve never seen a downtown more beautiful than Raleigh – and then you cross over into Moore Square,” Spencer said.
The city also heard from charitable organizations requesting continued public funding.
Ardie Gregory, a board member of the Interfaith Food Shuttle, whose members also turned out in force, thanked the city for the money it had provided in the past.
“In April we served 30,000 residents in need of nutritious food,” Gregory said.
She said the funding was put to other good uses as well, including a culinary training program which boasts more than 30 graduates.