Consider some important facts about police, firefighter pay
Posted On: Jan 04, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010
From Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Patrick D. Cannon, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee:
Last week there was much discussion about the task force that reviewed the effectiveness and efficiency of city government. The report essentially singled out the Public Safety Pay Plan as the most significant factor affecting the city's financial future.
We must keep in mind that the City of Charlotte is a public sector entity and not a private sector business. The role of government is to provide basic services to its citizens with public safety as a top priority. Although it sometimes may be prudent for city government to incorporate private sector business practices, the priority should remain on basic public services.
Here are a few points we must understand with respect to public safety funding as we approach the upcoming budget process.
The fire and police Public Safety Pay Plan comprises less than 15 percent of the $1.66 billion FY2011 budget. Therefore, we as city leaders must show fiscal responsibility across all segments of the budget.
Non-public safety city employees are typically hired on an individual basis within a starting salary range of 85 percent to 105 percent of market value per position.
Common practice among many cities is to hire sworn fire and police employees at a lower salary rate and offer an incremental step plan to reach market value. Firefighter and police officer progression through the Public Safety Pay Plan takes years to reach market value.
Most importantly to some, the structure of the Public Safety Pay Plan was designed to provide a cost savings to the city. Firefighters and police officers are hired in groups of about 15 to 60 or more people. Hiring police officers and firefighters below the accepted value for the position and incrementally increasing their salary to market value provides a significant cost savings for the city.
The Public Safety Pay Plan is not a fat cat system of annual raises doled out with no regard to fiscal responsibility as has often been presented by some. The Public Safety Pay Plan is a structured system of incremental salary increases that provides a fair and effective method to pay public safety employees, in careers where individual merit is difficult to judge objectively and equally across all ranks. These incremental pay steps are not arbitrarily handed out; they are designed to save money for the city, while rewarding each public safety employee for satisfactory service.
In recent years the focus has shifted from the savings and structure allowed by the Public Safety Pay Plan to the speculative costs that police and fire impose on the city. It is understandable that everyone is affected by these trying economic times and our public safety employees are no different. At no time during the past four years have Charlotte firefighters or police officers demanded an across the board pay increase, even in those years when the City Council was forced to not fund or partially fund the Public Safety Pay Plan.
We must move forward with efforts toward open and honest debate about the Public Safety Pay Plan. However we must do so based on facts, not unfounded perception.