DALLAS, TX – Most Dallas police officers and firefighters are officially getting a 10 percent raise.
Without much fanfare or discussion, the Dallas City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a three-year police and fire salary agreement.
After months of back-and-forth, city leaders and the police and fire associations negotiated a three-year contract in November. Council members approved the city’s budget in September that included money for the raises.
“We moved the needle around $20 million to make sure they’re treated fairly,” said council member Rickey Callahan of the pay agreement.
“We need to do more. We’re still losing officers,” he added.
The agreement includes a 10 percent raise for most officers and firefighters this fiscal year, which began in October. They will receive 5 percent the next year and 10 percent the following year.
Under their current salary agreement, most first responders get a 5 percent raise every year up to a capped amount. Those step increases are based on rank and years of service.
The agreement also creates a lateral hiring program, which could bring experienced police officers from other cities to Dallas. Currently, those officers have to take rookie pay to come to the city. Now, they can be paid a higher salary based on their experience.
The starting salary for firefighters and police officers will also increase at least 15 percent over three years, bringing their pay “close to market,” said Molly Carroll, human resources director for the city. City Council members were presented the details last week.
Dallas officers currently start out at $44,658 a year. In three years, that starting salary will be $55,288.
“It’s still not quite average,” Carroll said.
The police and fire associations criticized city leaders during early budget discussions and salary negotiations for not giving raises to all first responders, regardless of rank and tenure.
They wanted the higher ranks to receive raises, even though they wouldn’t be eligible under the complex pay step system. The new agreement allows for 2 percent raises for those higher ranks for each of the next three years.
Association leaders said seasoned police officers and firefighters were retiring or leaving for better-paying jobs in other cities because of Dallas’ low pay. Since October, 99 officers have quit or retired from the department.
City leaders had to consider the troubled pension fund and a decades-old pay lawsuit during the salary negotiations. The pay raises will cost the city nearly $90 million over three years.
But that’s the least of the costs facing the city, and by extension taxpayers.
The city faces having to shell out at least $4 billion in back pay if it loses its decades-old legal battle with firefighter and police officers over a 1979 pay referendum ordinance. A loss could cost the city as much as $330 million every year for the next 30 years.
Dallas police officers and firefighters filed six lawsuits against Dallas in the 1990s, alleging city officials weren’t following the 1979 referendum when giving public safety raises.
The city’s stance is that the ordinance, which voters approved, allowed for a one-time pay raise. Police officers and firefighters say the referendum was meant to determine all future pay raise decisions.
The cases have been winding through the legal system for decades, and one of the lawsuits is set to go to trial in May.
The current police and fire pay agreement stipulates that it does not fall under the 1979 ordinance.