Hundreds of Durham police officers and firefighters will see a boost in their paychecks after the City Council approved increasing starting salaries and annual raises Monday night.
“I am excited for the officers in the Durham Police Department,” Police Chief C.J. Davis said after the unanimous council vote. “I am excited for the future of the Durham Police Department.”
The pay adjustments are retroactive to Jan. 21 and will cost nearly $1.8 million this fiscal year.
Police and firefighter salaries haven’t been adjusted since 2008, when the current plans were implemented.
The change adjusts pay to meet the average of the starting salaries in 10 cities in the Carolinas and Virginia, including Charlotte, Greensboro, Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
Durham’s starting pay for recruits and police officers, however, would still be behind five and six other cities respectively.
City officials determined they couldn’t afford to meet the higher starting pay rates of the other cities. Instead their strategy increases base pay rates some, while also boosting annual merit increases to 5 percent, which is higher or equal to nine of the other cities. Before the change, the city offered annual merit raises of 3.25 percent.
“We understand we can’t do everything overnight,” Davis said. “I think they are going to continue to look at making sure the Durham Police Department is competitive.”
The goal of the raise is to reduce turnover and increase retention of employees who have been trained for their positions, city officials said. It costs about $55,654 to train and pay police recruits and $53,189 to train and pay fire recruits.
The city employs about 480 police officers and 300 firefighters.
Before the change, police recruits started at $33,000, which is between $856 and $9,009 less than the peer cities, according to a report.
The Police Department’s starting rate for recruits will increase 12.2 percent to $37,029. The starting minimum for officers will increase from $37,000 to $38,790.
Fire Department recruits’ pay will increase from $33,000 to $34,388. Firefighters’ minimum pay will go from $33,417 to $36,098.
Most officers and firefighters will experience an increase in their pay or total benefits package under the change, city officials have said.
Over the years, Police Department leaders have outlined the challenges of operating with vacancies, such as having fewer officers out on patrol.
Forty-nine police officers, about 10 percent of the force, left over the past year. About seven firefighters left.
The City Council passed the new compensation plan without comment beyond Mayor Bill Bell saying he is ready to adopt the new plan after months of conversations.
“I want to move on this item,” he said.