Councilors say 'no' to merit raises for BFD and BPD - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Councilors say 'no' to merit raises for BFD and BPD

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Birmingham city councilors have agreed to take out merit increases for police officers and firefighters in next year's budget.

Mayor William Bell put in $2.5 million for merit raises in 2015, but councilors decided in a 5-4 vote on Thursday to remove the money from the budget because they already face a $13 million deficit.

"We have to look at the large picture. The big picture is if we don't tighten up on funding we'll be discussing layoffs and that's what we want to preserve," City Council President Johnathan Austin said.

The decision is not final, however. The budget will have to go back to the full council for a vote and Mayor Bell will also have to agree to it.

All nine Birmingham city councilors attended the budget workshop meeting, which began around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Councilors proposed cutting the merit increases due to financial constraints.

Several police officers also attended the meeting, as well as representatives from the Birmingham Fire Department. Many of them left the meeting visibly upset.

The merit raises are not regular raises, but are merit increases that officers are promised when they join the department. They are based on an officer's performance and continue for about 10 years until an officer reaches his or her full salary at that current position.

Birmingham police officers are very concerned about not getting the merit increases, according to David Crews, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

"We're losing officers because they're not getting paid. They were promised this. We're understaffed as well. We've got open positions just like the fire department. If they continue this that's what's going to make it unsafe, because we're not going to have all the officers we can spare for Railroad Park or Magic City Classic. The city is outgrowing the department," Crews said.

If the merit raises remain stricken from the budget, this will be the third time this has happened in the past five years, Crews said.

There are around 1,800 city employees who are eligible for merit pay increases.

The council will make a final vote on the balanced budget on Tuesday, according to council president Johnathan Austin.

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