DALLAS (AP) - Dallas firefighters are considering asking the
City Council to defer their 5 percent pay raise promised for next
year if city officials agree to balance the budget without cutting
civilian jobs or civilian pay.
Firefighter Lt. Greg Perry said he suggested the plan because
"it's the right thing to do."
"I hate to see a water department worker or sanitation worker
or someone at the library get laid off because I get a pay raise
and they don't," Perry said. "I don't want the 5 percent if
someone else is standing in the bread line."
City officials, however, say withholding the raise would not
save near enough to rescue the jobs threatened by an estimated $81
million budget deficit. And the proposal threatens to create a rift
with city police officers, who aren't likely to give up their
increase.
Police and fire unions banded together earlier this year to seek
an immediate 17 percent pay raise. Voters overwhelmingly defeated
the referendum after the council launched an opposition campaign,
saying the unions' plan would cost thousands of jobs and increase
taxes.
The city instead promised a 15 percent raise over three years.
The Dallas Firefighters Association was to vote on the
raise-deferral proposal Monday and Tuesday evenings. In addition to
preserving civilian jobs and pay, the offer would insist that the
council not reduce any employee benefits or increase the amount
workers pay for health insurance.
While Perry conceded the plan may not be approved, he said he
wanted to send a message that civilian workers should not be
punished because city leaders have mismanaged funds.
He cited the council's recent decision to reimburse owners of
the Victory project $43 million for their proposed development near
American Airlines Center.
"If you've got $43 million to donate, why is it so hard to keep
city employees where they are and give them a pay raise?" he
asked.
Deferring the firefighters' raise for a year would save the city
$6.8 million, but that wouldn't offset the cost of keeping all
civilian workers at their current salaries, said First Assistant
City Manager Mary Suhm.
Civilian layoffs and pay cuts will save the city $16 million to
$18 million, she said. That amount could be recouped if police
officers also defer their raise next year.
That's not likely, said Glenn White, president of the Dallas
Police Association. He said his union's board has voted to go ahead
with the raise.
He said he was dismayed that some firefighters are "breaking
rank" by offering to defer the raise. If police officers don't
offer the same, it puts them in a negative light, White said.
"Either we are in it together or we are not," White said. "I
don't know what they are trying to do."
He said the firefighters are attempting to assist the very
civilian workers who campaigned against the 17 percent pay raise
referendum.
"Now we receive the wrath of the hatred of city employees," he
said of police officers.
Mayor Laura Miller, who lobbied for police and fire raises while
campaigning last year, was pleased with the firefighters'
suggestion, said her spokesman, Crayton Webb.
"It shows a lot of sensitivity on the part of firefighters to
civilian employees and the city's budget situation," he said.
"Firefighters are willing to look at the big picture here."
He said the council, which is recessed during July, won't
consider any budget issues until it reconvenes in August.
Last month, hundreds of civilian employees protested possible
job cuts and pay reductions in front of City Hall. Many protesters
blamed their plight partly on the raises promised to police and
firefighters.
Kristye Lynch, a 911 operator for Dallas, said she is grateful
for the firefighters' offer.
While she empathized with police and firefighters' desire for a
raise, she said she was "less understanding when it was said that
my job and other city jobs just were not as important as theirs."
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On the Net:
www.dallaspa.org
www.dffa.org
www.dallascityhall.com

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press