Tampa Police denied pay raise

12/02/09 Concetta DeLuco
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As Tampa faces harder economic times, it seems Tampa Police are going to have to pay. After months of debate in deciding whether to give Tampa Police an annual salary raise, the city council came to a decision today.

In a 5 to 1 vote, the City Council denied Tampa Police the request for a pay raise this year. Councilman Joseph Caetano was the odd vote. The police union and Mayor Pam Iorio hit an impasse in negotiations this past summer. Iorio has argued against the pay increase due the declining revenues in Tampa. The disputed contract went to a special magistrate who agreed with Iorio before it went up for discussion with the city council today. Council member Linda Saul-Sena thanked the hundreds of police officers and their families job that crowded the halls for their devotion to the job, but sided with both Mayor Iorio and the magistrate.

Tampa Police are paid on a step plan. The plan awards annual salary increases to officers as they work toward becoming master patrol officers in their first 11 years. The city council’s decision will deny officers of varying ranks between $2,500 and $7000 for 2010 . Representing Tampa Police, attorney Diane Bailey Morton argued the step plan is not a raise. Officers at higher ranks work harder and deserve to be paid for their work.

The city's Finance Director Bonnie Wise, said that Tampa simply cannot afford to give the police a raise when unemployment in Florida is at an all time high at 11%. In the end, Wise said, if the raise is given, it would mean less officers are employed.

An issue of confusion for both the public and city council throughout the meeting was whether or not the council’s decision would establish a new status quo. The Tampa Police Union feared that not receiving a pay raise now would mean the step plan would be disregarded in the future, as well. Council attorney Martin Shelby said that the contract can be up for negotiation for 2011 just as it was today. It is ultimately Mayor Iorio’s decision whether or not the contract goes up for negotiation.

In the end, most of the council members sympathized with the police and apologized for the decision. Councilman Dingfelder promised to vote in favor of the salary increase if it comes up for negotiation in 2011.

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