DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Darius Thompson has a heart for the Bull City, but the firefighter says because he can't afford to live there, he has considered leaving.
He makes $58,000 a year.
"It's a decision I struggle with all the time," he said. "I realized quickly that I couldn't afford a house for me, my wife and three kids. We ended up moving to Knightdale."
On Monday night, Durham firefighters attended the city council meeting to share stories of resilience as they struggle to make ends meet.
"We're being considered greedy because we want raises," one firefighter exclaimed. "Is it greedy to put food on the table for my kids?"
"My DFD salary was never enough to pay for rent and mortgage inside the city I serve," stated another firefighter.
Starting pay for Durham firefighters is $40,682. If a firefighter from another city comes to work there, lateral pay would be $42,966.
In Raleigh, starting pay is $46,540. Lateral pay is the same with a $4,000 bonus after graduating from the academy and a two-year guarantee of employment.
In Knightdale, entry-level and lateral pay is $57,001.
Apex offers a salary of $51,429.
"This job is amazing. Training is amazing. Only missing piece is being paid a fair wage," said Meredith Carter, a Durham firefighter.
Carter is a board member for Local 668, an organization advocating for Durham firefighters. According to her, firefighters have gone two years without merit raises with many not getting paid for how long they've worked for the department.
"The City of Durham has got to recognize our years of service to keep us here," she said.
Durham City Manager Wanda Page released the following statement to ABC11:
"The Proposed FY23-24 Budget includes a 7% pay increase and an end-of-year appreciation bonus of $300 for all sworn employees. General employees will receive a 6%-to-8% pay increase and an end-of-year appreciation bonus of $300.
The proposed budget also includes funding for a Classification and Compensation Study to ensure we provide market-competitive compensation for all employees, including firefighters and police officers.
We are committed to providing fair and competitive compensation for all staff. We value our dedicated employees, and we look forward to getting the results from the Classification and Compensation Study and bringing forth a recommendation to the City Council for ways to proceed to ensure our compensation is fair and equitable for all employees."