Shreveport officials agree: all city employees deserve a raise

This comes after a vote for 13% pay increase for first responders failed
(KSLA)
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 9:31 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Following the Shreveport City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, where a motion to increase first responders pay by 13% failed, the council and Mayor Adrian Perkins say they agree that pay for all city employees needs to be addressed.

“I know our first responders are disappointed right now because it didn’t go through yesterday, but I think we will get to a point where they will be happy before the end of the year,” Mayor Perkins said. “The Council is considering right now how to make things more fair and equitable for all city employees. That’s where the opposition came from; it wasn’t against the first responders. Their pay raise will probably remain the same, but it’s trying to figure out how to take the other city employees and give them more than a 2.75% pay raise that was recommended for everyone else.”

Councilmembers John Nickelson, LeVette Fuller, and Grayson Boucher sponsored the amendment, calling for pay raises for first responders.

“I feel like we did exactly what the administration asked us to do,” Boucher said. “It was an unfunded need on the fire and police departments’ budgets. None of the other departments had that unfunded need, we would have addressed that as well. So it’s very disappointing to me. I think that watching firefighters and police officers leaving our city at an alarming rate is bad and I think it’s going to continue to get worse with this failing. I hope we will continue to address this. We’ve been addressing this for three years now and we can’t seem to get anywhere other than about a 4% raise. I do understand that other city employees need a raise and I’m all for it, but that’s never been presented to me and this was. I feel like this just sends a bad message to our first responders.”

These three councilmembers call the vote disheartening.

“The vote on the public safety raises was as disappointing as any vote in my three years,” said Nickelson. “I thought it was absolutely critical that we give our firefighters and police officers the raise that they need to be paid fairly and to make sure they don’t leave for other regional law enforcement agencies and unfortunately, the council’s vote fell just one short. For as long as I hold my seat on the council I will continue to support a substantial increase in compensation for our firefighters and police officers. It should be a top priority for the council.”

Boucher released an additional statement on Tuesday’s vote on Wednesday, Dec. 15:

“The vote yesterday to increase our fire and police officers pay was the most disappointing and honestly heartbreaking vote I’ve been a part of since being elected 3 years ago,” said Boucher. “As a former firefighter, with over 22 years service and the husband of a current sheriffs deputy, my family and I understand first hand risk each member takes when putting on that uniform to serve our city. Their pay will never be high enough in my opinion, but the 13% was a good start. It is heartbreaking to me that a starting firefighter with SFD, who puts his or her life on the line daily, makes less than $13.00 an hour. SPD pay isn’t much better, it’s just disgusting. I will continue to work with other members of the council, but, I will not settle. Our police and fire need to be paid everything they deserve. Anything less than 13% is unacceptable in my book.”

Also at the council meeting, employees from several city departments spoke during public comment.

The Shreveport Police Department Union Executive Board spoke first, saying if the pay raise isn’t passed, the problems the department is facing will continue to get worse.

“The facts are we are 124 officers short,” said SPD Corporal Chris Bordelon, who spoke on behalf of the Shreveport Police Union Executive Board. ”The facts are over the past years the number of officers that we have leaving has more than doubled per month. There is no help in sight if we do not change this right now. It will not get better if the pay raise is not passed. I would like to tell you that if the pay raise passed it would immediately get better tomorrow, but it will not. Officers, if we hire one today, will not be a fully functioning police officer until a year from now. This is a long-term issue. We cannot continue to kick this can down the road. If this pay raise is not passed, all we are doing is setting our next chief, whoever that may be, up for failure. Please do not set us up for failure. If we do not fix this problem now, the city is going to continue to spiral in the direction we are going.”

City employees from other departments stood in front of the council saying while they aren’t against the pay raises for Shreveport fire and police departments, they deserve raises too.

“I am here on behalf of the clerical staff and I am asking for a pay raise,” Ruby Roundtree, who has worked in Property Standards for the last 20 years, said. “Inspectors do a lot of work and do a great job. When they have a lot of work, it’s a lot of work for us. Whatever they need, we do it. I know that police and fire are great, and we need them, but it’s a whole city thing, not just a few departments. Please consider giving us other employees a pay raise.”

Michael Blow, who works for the Water Department, told the council he has been with the city for over three decades and only makes $13.71 an hour.

“I think everybody deserves a pay raise,” Blow said. “I’ve been here 30 years and I haven’t seen much of a difference. I moved from the Street and Drainage Department to the Water Department and that’s how I got a raise, but it’s been hard. We need money too.”

The Department of Property Standards stood together requesting the council consider them for a 13% raise as well.

“Our department works hand in hand with fire and police trying to keep our city safe,” said Lisa Hays, a certified inspector with the city. “We are the catch all department. We get called about water, animals, streets and drainage, zoning issues, and illegal businesses and permits. We approach the public every day with our safety in question. There are only 40 people in our entire department. We are expected to take care of the entire city and we do. We have been attacked by dogs, have guns pulled on us, we approach vacant structures, vehicles that have people living in them or those potentially attempting to engage in criminal activity. It’s hard for us to concentrate on work and take care of families when we are not being taken care of and have to work two or three jobs. We are not taking away from fire and police. They deserve their pay raises, but we do also.”

Perkins and councilmembers sat and heard pleas from city employees for almost two hours.

“I have to tell you, some of those stories were heartbreaking,” Perkins said. “We have an employee who’s worked here for 30 years and he makes $13.71 an hour. He said he wouldn’t even be making that if we hadn’t raised the minimum wage to $13. It’s very difficult. It’s one of the most difficult for me as the leader of the city is having employees who are not making livable wages. That’s something that we are working on all the time. That’s the reason why I think yesterday, although disappointing, I think we will get to a better place when council reconvenes and comes up with a plan going forward.”

Perkins says he is asking councilmembers to come back to their next meeting with more ideas for raises across the board.

“I think they are going to be working pretty hard because they know the sense of urgency with our current state of public safety, which nobody is happy with,” said Perkins. “We know we have to retain as many officers and firefighters as we possibly can, but we also need to make sure we are retaining our water and sewer employees. The numbers have come out showing we are hemorrhaging those employees as well. So we are going to get to a point that’s going to be better than where we were going at the last council meeting and I think we will all be better for it.”

Councilwoman Fuller says she believes the only way something will get passed is if it includes all city employees.

“We are back to the drawing board and this time if we do anything, the only way it’s going to pass is if it’s comprehensive of all city employees,” she said. “I think that we owe it to the community and we owe it to the employees to do something, but it’s going to be a long road because we need to make sure the revenue is there. Everyone keeps mentioning the reoccurring funds that have to be there in order to put something in place, because if you put something in place and you cannot sustain it, then that’s when you start talking about layoffs and attrition.”

The Shreveport City Council is set to meet again on Dec. 28.

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