300 Chattanooga police, firefighters could see pay raises

300 Chattanooga police, firefighters could see pay raises

May 31st, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press -The badge of the Chattanooga Police Department adorns the shoulder of an officer.

Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free...

More than 300 police officers and firefighters could see a jump in pay in the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The city is pumping more money into public service to reward employees for longevity and improving skills.

The proposed pay upgrades would affect about 25 percent to 30 percent of public safety workers in Chattanooga, city officials said.

"This is a big deal for the men and women in the department," said Police Department Assistant Chief Tommy Kennedy.

Mayor Ron Littlefield's proposed 2011-12 fiscal year budget includes $2.8 million for employee pay increases. The budget proposes $1.2 million to fix a pay anomaly for some firefighters, $620,000 to reinvigorate the police department's career ladder and $1 million to fix a pay anomaly for nonsworn employees - generally, civilians who handle administrative duties and have not gone through the fire or police academy.

Chattanooga spent $1 million this year to fix a police pay anomaly, giving raises to those who hold the rank of sergeant and above. The newest proposals would give raises to about 150 firefighters who hold the rank of lieutenant and above, fixing an anomaly in that department, said Fire Chief Randy Parker.

Donna Kelley, the city's personnel director, said the anomaly exists because some long-term employees have not received raises through the years so some new employees are coming in at the same pay as nine-year veteran administrators, she said.

Police Chief Bobby Dodd said about 150 police officers could see raises as the city reimplements its career ladder, which would help rank-and-file police officers by giving those officers raises for obtaining special work-related skills and obtaining a higher grade within their rank. Each higher grade within rank is worth a 6 percent pay raise, he said.

Without it, there is no rewards system, he said.

"You're punishing me for excelling," Dodd said.

Parker agreed.

"You want to reward high achievers," he said.

Detective Phil Grubb, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, did not respond to calls Friday. Sgt. Toby Hewitt, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment.

The city also has set aside $1 million for nonsworn employees, but Kelley did not provide details on who would get raises and how many.

Richard Beeland, spokesman for Littlefield, said the city would spread the money out as much as possible.

"Whatever is left will affect the remaining," he said.

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.