Police, fire workers ask City of Raleigh for pay raise

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Raleigh firefighters and police officers are some of the lowest paid in Wake County.

Police officers and firefighters of the City of Raleigh swarmed city hall Tuesday night.

About 200 people crowded the outside of the building, some with signs that read "would you do this job 56 hours a week for $11.22 per hour."

Chris Ferrell was one of the many in the crowd. He's from Rocky Mount, but has been a firefighter for Raleigh for almost eight years.

"Just always dreamed about being a firefighter and where better to do it than in the capital city," Ferrell said. "It's a great city, it's a cool place to live. I just wish more of us could live here."

Ferrell lives in Clayton and said it's pretty typical to see firefighters live in surrounding counties.

Starting firefighters make $11.22 an hour and many haven't seen a significant pay increase in years.

"The general sentiment throughout the country is $15 an hour is the livable wage for any job, but to have the certification, the training, to take the risk, to miss out on the family time, for $11.22 is shameful," said Ferrell. "The divorce rate for firefighters is three times the national average and when you add financial struggle."

Police and fire united to ask for better pay in Raleigh.

"Firefighters are spending 56 hours a week away from their families just to come to the fire department," said Keith Wilder, President of Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association. "They're supplementing that income with part time income. And we have firefighters who are receiving public assistance."

Their brothers in blue face the same hurdles.

"Our organization represents over 500 Raleigh police officers," said Matt Cooper, President of the Raleigh Police Protective Association told city council members in chambers. "We have learned that many officers after hearing this latest budget proposal have decided to look for employment elsewhere."

And elsewhere is proving to be within Wake County.

Numbers shared by the RPPA show Raleigh falling last when it comes to neighboring departments.

Starting Police Salaries - Wake County

Knightdale: $41,497
Holly Springs: $41,689
Cary: $40,456
Fuquay-Varina: $39,624
Wake Forest: $38,309
Raleigh: $34,281

While the city council was holding a public comment hearing Tuesday night about the budget and could not respond to concerns or were scheduled to vote on anything, the city did release this statement earlier:

"Public safety will always be a top priority for the City of Raleigh. This year the recommended budget includes up to a 3.5 percent increase in salary for all employees. We are actively engaged in a data-driven compensation study that will look to address any issues in our pay system for our Police Department and the other City departments that serve our growing community."

City spokespersons also add that the pay study is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2017.

That's a timeline firefighters and police officers say they don't want to wait through and don't plan on giving up.

"We love what we do, we love helping people, we love this city, we just feel like we're getting left behind," Ferrell said.

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