SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - A 4 percent pay raise for rank-and-file police and fire personnel is one step closer to reality. It’s described by many as a stop-gap measure until a quarter-cent sales tax can be put on the ballot the spring to pay for even higher raises. However, the measure is not without controversy.
At first blush, a 4 percent pay raise sounds like a positive step forward.
Dr. Michael Carter, president of the Shreveport Police Officers Association (SPOA), sees it as a betrayal by city councilman Grayson Boucher, head of the Public Safety Committee, that just approved that 4-percent pay hike proposal on Thursday.
“I think that Grayson Boucher has drastically let down the Shreveport Police Officers Association. He’s told us that he knows that the money’s there and he understands it’s there. He simply refuses to put. There’s a crime problem in the city and he refuses to address it," said Carter.
Councilman Boucher said in a Zoom interview that’s exactly what he’s doing - addressing low salaries; just not all at once.
“The main issue to keep in mind is this, this is a band aid, it’s not the fix," said Boucher.
Boucher also explained that he fully supports Carter’s salary proposals, but added that police must also have enough money right now to pay for the hiring of 40 more police officers to help in the fight against crime.
“Then that will give us the ability to possibility go to the taxpayers in the spring to be able to come in and have a quarter-cent sales tax to be able to support police and fire raises that will be more substantial, something closer to what Officer Carter’s wanting," said Boucher.
Shortly after the committee’s vote on Thursday, Dr. Carter described how Boucher would not sponsor the association’s minimal pay raise retention plan.
“So we went to councilwoman Levette Fuller. She looked at it, she understood it, she knows that it’s needed. She understands the needs of the police department. Grayson Boucher refuses to let the police department move forward," said Carter.
Meanwhile, Chief Scott Wolverton with the Shreveport Fire department also cites low pay as a major factor in the departure of 33 of their fire personnel this year.
“Probably by the end of the year we probably will have close to, we’re probably pushing 70 vacant firefighter positions," said Wolverton.
He also says that’s 70 job vacancies out of 162 department-wide.
When the Public Safety Committee approved the 4 percent pay hike for first responders, Chief Wolverton called it a good start.
“It doesn’t get us to that regional average. To get us that regional average is a significant amount of funding which will require a sustainable funding source," said Wolverton.
That’s why Wolverton says he also supports a ballot measure this spring for a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a more substantial raise.
Boucher explained that the city is walking a very fine line in balancing all the needs of Shreveport citizens.
“We do not have an enormous amount of revenue right now. We are down a little bit on our sales tax. We’re trying to still pick up people’s trash and keep their water clean and meet a consent decree. And we’re all having to work together. You know, we didn’t get in this position overnight. And we’re not going to get out of this position overnight," said Boucher.
The first reading of the pay raise plan is expected on Tuesday, Oct. 13, with the second and final reading one week later on Tuesday, Oct. 20.