NEW ORLEANS, LA Strong words tonight for Mayor Mitch Landrieu from the New Orleans Fire fighter’s union. Fire fighters feel left out after the mayor announced police officers will get a 10 percent raise.
It’s no secret that the New Orleans Police Department has had problems with manpower since Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, the mayor announced the city will exceed its 2014 revenue forecast by nearly $15 million, and he plans to use that money to give NOPD officers a 5 percent raise starting July 1, and another 5 percent Jan 1. That’s on top of another 5 percent the City Council approved for officers last year.
The city hopes that increase will help recruit new officers and keep the ones they have, “to our brave men and women in uniform who deserve our unwavering support that we are here to help retain the officers that are there by announcing a 10 percent increase in pay for the police,” Landrieu said.
They mayor says the bump will bring NOPD salaries in line with the Louisiana State Police. While the New Orleans Fraternal Order of Police is happy with the news, “when we originally went into talks with the city, we asked for 15 percent, so we’re now getting 15 percent,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Walter Powers.
The New Orleans Fire Fighters Union sees it differently, “it looks like they want to hurry up and spend whatever money we found out they had before they pay their debt that they agreed to pay to fire fighters,” said New Orleans Fire Fighters Union President Nick Felton.
They’re upset because they’ve been fighting the city to pay their pension. A judge recently issues a judgment that the city would have to come up with a payment plan to pay out the 26 million owed to fire retirees. But just this week, the city’s chief administrative officer said the city couldn’t make that payment without affecting city services, “a $26 million judgment would dwarf and exceed what we were expecting to have in the fund balance at the end of the year,” said City of New Orleans CAO Andy Kopplin.
We asked the mayor Friday how news of a budge surplus will affect that payment to the fire fighters’ pension.
“We are going to put a settlement offer forward that we think will move us closer to where we want to be, having said again the fire fighters liability is one that is of great contention. That system is still not where I want it to be or where I need it to be,” said Landrieu.
The president of the fire fighters union wanted to make it clear that this is not about police versus fire. Felton says they support their fellow first responders.
The city released the following statement late Friday evening:
“Today, the City informed Judge Giarrusso that we will request the City Council appropriate $5 million for the New Orleans fire fighters pension fund at the Council’s May 14 special meeting. As always, we are continually working to comply with the Court’s order in a way that doesn’t disrupt or slash essential City services, like public safety, parks and recreation and street repairs.”