Council divded over merit raises

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A proposal to reward city employees for a job well done has turned into a point of controversy among city leaders.

After a four hour budget work session, merit raises aren’t likely be a part of the Birmingham City Council’s balanced for the upcoming fiscal year budget.

The council is divided on the issue. With a show of hands, five council members chose not to support the proposal. Councilor Steven Hoyt, Valorie Abbot, Johnathan Austin, Marcus Lundy and William Parker all agree the budget will not allow for the increase.

“Our employees have to understand that in order for us to make sure they have a job in the future then we have to make decisions now,” said Council President Johnathan Austin.

Austin says they need to hold the line this year and look at ways to fund the budget, challenge departments to reduce costs and find cost savings and come back next year to discuss merit raises.

Councilor Lashunda Scales, who is in favor of the increase, says decisions to fund other things outside of the budget throughout the year have caused a problem.

“It is the tax payers in which we serve so we have to decide whether we do entertainment as a city or whether or not we want to better fund those merit raises and to better appreciate those police and fire, all those that a merit increase would apply.”

According to the council 1,812 employees are eligible for the merit increase, but not every eligible person would receive it. According to Austin, last year about $2.5 million was paid in merit raises.

Union representatives for Birmingham police and firefighters say the men and women have earned those merits.

“We’ve got some action planned and we’re not going to step back and take it. We’re going to fight this,” said Fraternal Order of Police President David Crews.

Crews along with supporting council members say it’s already tough to compete for and keep quality officers. They are losing many to retirement and competing job opportunities in other cities.

Don Baker, President of the Birmingham Fire Fighters Association says these men and women are hired in and told what they will be paid if they perform well and they’ve earned those merits.

“We’re in the most dangerous line of work that you can do in the city of Birmingham. We have lost 3 firefighters in the last year to cancer and heart attack, really within the last six months. We’re asking to be paid, what we’re worth, based on our merit.”

The issue will be discussed and finalized before the mayor and council at next Tuesday’s council meeting.

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