DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After losing hundreds of police officers and firefighters over the years, the city of Dallas is about to boost starting salaries and give a three-percent raise across the board to current first responders.
Dallas City Council members voted 11-3 Wednesday to increase pay beyond what they were already going to receive during the last year of their contract with the city.
Most council members believe the city had to do something to slow the tide of police officers and firefighters leaving for other cities in North Texas who pay more.
Adam McGough, Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee introduced the amendment that ultimately passed. “I think we made a substantial step today.”
McGough said he’s pleased that under the proposal, starting salaries for first responders would rise by about $10,000 to $60,000. “We can now for the first time that I know of the city of Dallas can say we are here, a higher starting salary than our suburbs and areas around here.”
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata says the added $16 million is a smart investment. “You immediately get a higher tier of recruit that will come here and you’re maintaining your two-three-four-five year officer from looking at leaving.”
Both the city’s fire and police chiefs say this will help their departments.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said, “It’s already tough enough for law enforcement across this country to recruit, so putting us in a position that makes us as competitive or on a better path to compete is an absolute joy for us and we’re excited about that.”
Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief David Coatney said, “One of our challenges has been retaining some employees after we’ve hired them and after we’ve trained them and so this will provide us an opportunity to have a better retention of our employees.”
But during the council meeting, their boss, City Manager T.C. Broadnax expressed deep concern because he and other administrators will soon have to start negotiating a new contract with first responders — and he suggested Wednesday’s vote boxes them in. “To do that at this level of specificity in an open forum around this dais and prescribe to me and my team specifically where we need to start, I think it’s problematic.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed with Broadnax, and is one of three on the Council who opposed the amendment.
He said another problem is the new money won’t pay for any new officers or firefighters.
If there were, he might be more supportive. “I’d go ok, there’s a trade we need to think about. But I don’t even get to make that trade.”
Council member Jennifer Gates, who also voted ‘no,’ said she would have voted ‘yes,’ had the amendment tied the salary and pay raises to the police and fire associations approving a new contract by September 30, 2019, when their current agreement expires.
But council member McGough didn’t support that idea nor did anyone else.
While council members we spoke with believe their vote Wednesday will stick, nothing is final until the council approves the budget later this month.