Atlanta City Council passed the city’s budget for 2019 on Monday afternoon. A major issue with this budget had been pay for Atlanta’s police and fire employees.
The Council ended up approving an amendment to give a 3.1 percent pay raise to sworn police and fire employees who pass a satisfactory job evaluation. Police and fire union representatives agreed this would not fix the deeper problems the departments are having.
Police union representatives highlighted that this amounts to a $1,200 increase in base pay. They had requested a $12,000 raise to make the salary more competitive.
Plus, they pointed out, with a flat pay raise, the newest police recruits will get the lowest pay raise, which won’t help with recruiting.
Ken Allen with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers equated the pay raise to a “band-aid on cancer” and said he was “dumbfounded” that it was all the Council could come up with. He said he expects the police department to continue to shrink to “critical shortage” until something major is done in terms of compensation.
Paul Gerdis, with the Atlanta Professional Fire Fighters Association, called the 3.1 percent pay raise “a great start.” However, he said, “It doesn’t do much to attract the outside candidates, which we are trying to do by making overall, sweeping changes to the salary.”
Councilmembers expressed disappointment with the pay raise, too. Councilmember Jennifer Ide called it “an incomplete and imprecise fix … I think this is a bigger problem than a 3-percent fix.”
Councilmembers promised to start earlier and work harder in the next year to make larger changes to the big problems. Several cited the need to study a new compensation study recently finished by the Atlanta Police Foundation, which they had not yet seen.
“No one here thinks that we are solving what is a very big problem,” Councilmember Howard Shook said . He reminded the room that this was progress from the original budget, which had only included one time, $1,000 bonuses for sworn employees.
Gerdis said he is optimistic about Councilmembers following through on their promises to make bigger changes going forward. Allen said it seemed like “kicking the can” again.
This is the city’s largest budget ever, at $661 million. It is also Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ first.
Other amendments passed in the final budget included $3 million more to support cybersecurity efforts in the city, an additional $1 million to support arts in the city, as well as $100,000 to support HIV prevention efforts.
CORRECTION: This report has been corrected to show the city of Atlanta approved a $661 million budget.