Residents weigh in on Raleigh budget

RALEIGH Many in the overflow crowd said they hope their presence will pressure Raleigh city council members to rethink this year's proposed budget.

The proposal will not lay anyone off, will not have any furloughs and taxes will not go up, but the $696 million budget will cap the annual merit raise for city workers with 5 years or less on the job, at a maximum 4 percent. Only the top performers of this group will receive the 4 percent. Others may receive 2 percent or nothing at all. "Some employees with 6 years or more are eligible for a lesser, but tiered meritorious increase. However, there is a portion of our workforce that is not eligible for any merit raise at all. Those are the employees who will be most affected by the loss of a 1.5 percent increase. The misunderstanding is City of Raleigh employees do not receive a 'cost of living raise' and when employees don't understand our quartile system we can't expect the public to get it in just a 30 second sound bite. The fact is, City of Raleigh employees do not receive an automatic raise. You have to be eligible for it, then you have to earn it," said Keith Wilder, president of the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association.

"While the consumer price index is much higher than 1.5 percent each year, that is all we get each year for a cost of living raise. Many of us can not afford to lose this raise," said Rick Armstrong with the Raleigh Police Protective Association.

The city council is also considering closing the boathouse at Shelley Lake, trimming hours at all parks, and closing the carousel at Chavis Park during the week.

"The loss of our range adjustment just compounds our worry for being able to provide for our families," said Keith Wilder with the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association.

The proposed budget is also calling for raising health insurance premiums which would raise family costs.

"Our health insurance premiums have increased 7 percent, our deductibles increased 15 percent, our co-insurance payments will be higher and we will lose 1 percent of our merit raise," Armstrong said.

First responders and public workers say they are upset their paycheck is going down while the city manager's goes up after the city council approved a $10,000 pay raise earlier this year.

"You will never hear us arguing about employees being rewarded for their hard work, but there are almost 4,000 other hard working city of Raleigh employees who would like the same parity as their peers," Wilder said.

The city manager's raise applies to the current fiscal year and not next year's.

Mayor Charles Meeker said the council is very aware of the public reaction to the raise. He said the council will discuss the pay raise again before the final budget is approved.

The 2010 budget must be voted on and approved by July 1.

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