Charlotte adds more money for police pay. Why some officers aren't happy.

Charlotte adds more money for police pay. Why some officers aren't happy.
(WBTV graphic)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) - After hearing complaints from police officers that proposed pay raises weren't enough, City Manager Marcus Jones has presented a new pay plan, which adds $500,000 to police officer pay.

Police officers say they are encouraged, but concerned that some of the increases comes from shifting money slated for the most senior offices to those in mid-career.

"More work needs to done with senior officers," said Mark Michalec of the Fraternal Order of Police, which is lobbying council members for higher pay.

Council members are scheduled to discuss the budget — and police pay — Monday at 3:30 p.m. The final vote on the budget is June 11.

The Fraternal Order of Police had asked the city for an across-the-board 15 percent pay raise. In May, Jones proposed an average 6.5 percent pay increase, which would increase the police budget by roughly $11.5 million, or 4.4 percent.

Police Chief Kerr Putney has said he is struggling to recruit and retain officers, and his vacancy rate is nearly 10 percent.

The starting salary today for an officer is just under $43,000. Under Jones' plan, that would increase to $46,350. If an officer has a four-year degree, the starting salary would be just under $51,000.

But many police officers felt the 6.5 percent increase was less than advertised. Many were already getting built-in step increases, as well as 1.5 percent cost-of-living increases. During the public hearing on the budget last month, a number of officers blasted the city for what they said were meager raises.

Under the first plan, officers in years two through four of their careers would have received a 6.5 percent raise each year. Under the new plan, they will see 12 percent raises each year.

Officers in years six through 10 would have received a 4 percent raise under the manager's first plan. In the second plan, they would receive 7 percent raises.

An officer in his or her 12th year would have received 9.2 percent under the first proposal. That officer would now receive 7 percent.

There is a similar drop for an officer in the 13th year. Under the first proposal, that officer would have received a 6.5 percent increase. That falls to 4.5 percent.

"Raises for veteran officers aren't as good," said City Council member Ed Driggs. "But the manager is trying to tailor it to where he perceives the greatest needs. I think he has done a good job."

Council member Justin Harlow supports the new plan.

"I believe they should be paid more," he said.

But he added he is worried the city is a "little exposed" after officers lobbied the city as a group for higher pay. He said he doesn't know how council members will react in the future when other departments lobby council members in large numbers.

The proposed budget includes the city's first property tax increase since 2013. It would increase the city tax rate by one penny, to 48.84 cents for every $100 of taxable property. That means the owner of a house with an assessed value of $250,000 would pay $25 more a year.