Higher taxes suggested for police pay

May 30, 2008 11:48:11 AM PDT
Some Durham city leaders say taxpayers may have to reach deeper into their wallets to stop police officers and other emergency workers from going to other Triangle communities for better pay. In a show of force, about 100 Durham Police officers and firefighters packed a special budget meeting Friday morning in the Durham City Council chambers. They're asking for a pay hike comparable to Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte.

"We're going to bleed officers like you bleed a main artery," said Andy Miller with the North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance. "We need $7,000 across the board. We need to raise our starting paying by $7000 which means you need to raise everyone else's pay to hold down compression. That's $5 million dollars."

Law enforcement union leaders say they would accept $3000 pay increase, but cautioned that anything less would do little to keep officers from leaving for better paying positions in other cities.

It's money some city leaders say they just don't have as they wrangle over the new fiscal year budget. The council agrees that pay raises are in order. Councilman Eugene Brown said he would support a tax increase to stop high turnover.

"We've got to bite the bullet, " Brown said to the crowd, "We've got to have a tax increase and we have to help the public understand why."

But, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said the proposal would be a hard sell. Bull City taxpayers are facing the possibility of a county tax increase in addition to increased fees for water and other amenities.

"People will tolerate a tax increase. The question is: how much of a tax increase," argued Mayor Bill Bell. "In order to do all the things that are being asked of us will require a tremendous tax increase. I don't care what you say people are not going to listen to that."

The city will continue its budget talks with hopes of making a final decision soon.


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