Groups and individuals affected by government budget slashing offer their impassioned pleas for relief.
In regards to the proposed City of Raleigh budget: Where have all the leaders gone? City Manager J. Russell Allen has proposed a budget that does not give police officers and other city employees a cost of living or merit increase of 1.5 percent, that reduces the merit salary program by 1 percent per quartile and increases our health insurance premiums by 8 percent, all the while he receives $10,000 pay raise.
Again I ask, where have all the leaders gone? The quote from a City Council member in your article referring to the pay raise given to Allen stated that when somebody doesn’t get a raise when he works very hard, it’s demotivating. So how should the police officers and other city Employees feel now?
During the past nine years, police officers and other city employees have received a minimal 1 percent to 1.5 percent cost of living raise, which has not kept up with inflation in this area, while other cities have averaged higher cost of living increases. Even in the best of times, Raleigh officers have not seen a 5 percent pay increase during the past nine years. Due to this budget proposal, police officers who have been working hard, receiving outstanding evaluations and are not eligible for merit increases, will not receive any pay increase. It would seem loyal employees are not valued in the City of Raleigh. How demotivating is that?
On top of the pay cuts, employees will be paying a higher premium for family health care. It is nice to know that we are so valued that Allen is willing for the police officers to continue to provide outstanding service and work for less money, while he benefits from a pay increase. But it is OK because there will not be an increase in the property tax rate, no increase in solid waste fees, no increase in stormwater fees and no increase in privilege license fees.
I think most economists would agree that when you are trying to get out of a recession, you don’t cut pay. You cut programs that are not needed and put off building projects. It doesn’t make sense to take money out of the consumers’ hands when the economy depends on people to spend money in order to get out of the recession. By cutting pay, the recession continues and deepens because no one has money to spend.
Allen suggests that there will be an $18 million to $22 million budget gap for fiscal year 09-10 and that by implementing the cuts in pay and not filling vacant positions, the City of Raleigh will save $15 million. Should the employees bear the brunt of the budget gap all on their backs? Share the burden. How about not spending $9 million on roundabouts on Hillsborough Street, not building a new police station and putting on hold some of the other projects in the city for a year.
How about looking for a new health provider instead of a plan that raises premiums and gave its top six executives more than $1 million each last year, topped by giving a chief executive close to $4 million and gives a $3 million bonus to one of its executives?
The morale within the Raleigh Police Department is already on shaky ground due to inadequate pay raises in order to keep up with inflation for the past nine years, a new Secondary Employment Policy that cuts their ability to earn extra income while providing a much needed service for the city, an inadequate disciplinary policy and continual increases in the health care benefit. This budget proposal will cripple the morale of police officers and other employees as well as create an undue financial hardship on the officers.
We urge the City Council to re-evaluate this proposal and take into account its demotivating effect on the employees of this city.
Narley L. Cashwell Jr.
President, Raleigh Chapter, North Carolina Police Benevolent Association
Regarding Wake County’s plan to remove the public library from Athens Drive High School as a cost-cutting measure: I’m very much against this move as I think it sends the wrong message to the users of this facility. This public library has been in place since the opening of ADHS 30 years ago, and for good reasons.
First, it gives students at the school the opportunity, through the Wake County intra-library loan, to get materials they might not otherwise be able to obtain. School libraries tend to have very limited content. My children both attended Athens High and found the expanded content of the library very helpful in completing their school projects. This facility offers students the additional materials they need to be successful.
Second, it serves a portion of the population often forgotten in the upper middle class atmosphere of much of Wake County. The library is easily accessible via public transportation and, for many, is within walking distance from neighboring low-income housing.
Third, to me, it makes about the best use of space of any library in the system. Can the palace of a library we just opened on the Preston side of Cary make the same claim; to serve both students and a spectrum of people of all ages and incomes the way ADHS can? I don’t think so. To this day, I can’t understand why we don’t design our new schools such that we can copy this model throughout the county. Think of the number of tax dollars we could save on buildings alone!
One need only enter the library at virtually any hour it’s open to see how busy it is. Users take advantage of the computers there all day as many of them don’t have the resources to have their own computers. In addition to the 12 public library computers, the 32 student computers are available for use by the public after school hours. This was particularly advantageous to public patrons during a recent outage of the public computer internet for the entire Wake County library system. Users at ADHS found easy access to the student computers to continue their tasks.
The number of Athens Drive school books that are loaned to the Wake County community through this facility (at 500 last month alone) is also significant. This will end as a resource to county users if the public library is closed. Another plus is that school books mistakenly returned to any public library in the system may be sent via courier to Athens where they are quickly and cheaply sent by courier to their appropriate home. The closing of the public portion of this library will increase both the complexity and the cost of this process.
The school is also used evenings as a site for Wake Technical and Community College classes. ESL classes also take place at ADHS during the evening. Having this library so easily available is a real plus for all night class students. Finally, with the employment situation in the state as it is, folks need a place to go to get job search information.
A casual observer to this proposal would note that this cut is an easy one because the public portion operates on a yearly renewable contract. A closer look, though, reveals that the savings due to the end of this contract are minimal compared with the benefits this library gives a very needy portion of the public.
So, you’ll be hearing directly from the many, many happy users of this facility with a petition in the near future. We beg of you to reconsider closing this valuable facility.
Steven P. Ottone
Long-time ADHS library user