Tuesday evening was the final opportunity for the public to weigh in on Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s proposed budget. Dozens of the city’s police officers turned out to ask for a more substantial pay raise after they say negotiations with the city reached an impasse.
Stephen Hartney is president of the Salt Lake Police Association, a union representing officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department. He said the 1% cost of living pay increase proposed for police department employees isn’t enough. Hartney is asking the city council for a 4.5% pay raise for police officers represented by the union.
“We’ve waited, we’ve be patient, we’ve been silent, we’ve weathered the storms with the city,” Hartney told the council. “It’s time to start taking care of the city employees.”
Another officer, Pete Sauers, told the council that the department's recruiting numbers are down. He said if salaries aren’t more competitive, the department will lose officers to surrounding jurisdictions where it’s safer to work.
“We’re not as attractive as we used to be” Sauers said. “When you can go to Bountiful or Draper, have a reduced call load, a heck of a lot less stress, and make more money, that’s a win-win.”
Mayor Biskupski was not at the meeting but members of her staff were. Her spokesman Matthew Rojas said the mayor would like to give a bigger raise to public safety officers, but this year’s budget is especially tight. Rojas also noted that the timeframe for negotiations is still open.
Councilman Stan Penfold said the officers made a compelling argument but he’s not sure the council will be able to scrape together enough money for a raise this year.
“I’m not too optimistic about it because the mayor gave us a really tight budget with very little wiggle room in it,” Penfold said, “but we’ll give it another look.
But time is running out—Penfold said the council is planning to vote on a final budget next week.