RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Raleigh City Council approved a 2-percent increase for full-time city employees on Tuesday.
Leaders said that pay bump equates to about a $6.4 million cost to the city.
City officials discussed possibly increasing property taxes to help fund more revenue for city employee salaries, as there are staffing shortages in several departments.
Members of the Raleigh fire and police departments were out Tuesday protesting for a larger pay increase.
The group stood outside the municipal building in downtown Raleigh ahead of the city council meeting and protested the proposed raise.
Council members did discuss wages for the fire department and police department but decided to unanimously pass the pay bump to help employees while they work to find possible solutions to those salary concerns.
CBS 17 crews did not hear a mention of the protest held before the meeting during the city council’s session.
Those outside the municipal center said 2 percent isn’t enough and their wages fall short when compared to other cities and counties nearby.
One of the main concerns among those protesting was that the proposed pay increase of 2 percent doesn’t match the increase in the cost of living in the area, which has gone up 8 percent, they said.
Some of their signs read “Would you do our job for 13.50 an hour?”
The police and fire departments want more money to make ends meet and to make it easier to recruit more employees.
Rick Armstrong with the Raleigh Police Protective Association said a 10-percent raise across the board would make wages more competitive.
“There’s over 200 police officers not patrolling these streets each and every day that should be,” said Armstrong. “In 20 years I’ve been doing this work, I’ve never seen so many vacancies.”
He said about 20-percent of the police force is empty.
Protesters said it’s a trickle-down effect from a lack of pay and it impacts everyone.
“When you have less officers on the street, the response times are going to be longer,” added Armstrong.
That’s the case with the fire department, too.
“To at least be able to give us a decent wage would help retain more people,” said Saron Reed. “It benefits the citizens a lot because we’ll have the manpower.”
Reed graduated from the fire academy five months ago.
He has a son and is engaged.
He told CBS 17 that the pay just doesn’t cut it.
“We do what we can. It’s not enough,” said Reed.
He said the fire department can barely keep up with adequate staffing levels.
“There was 20 in our class. By the time we were to graduate, there were 20 people who were entering retirement or going someplace else,” explained Reed.
While the pay bump helps, people CBS 17 spoke with said they need more.
“That’s actually a cut in their pay with inflation. They’ll make less this year than they did last year. That’s unacceptable,” said Armstrong.
The raise is expected to be effective starting April 23. Employees should see the raises reflected on their May 13 paycheck.
Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to be held in person but the city announced Monday that it would be held virtually.
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday – forcing the change.