Gulfport Workers Won't Get A Pay Raise

The man spreading pine straw around a Highway 90 flower bed was Cedric Walker.

"I'm just out here just trying to earn a check," the Gulfport Leisure Services employee said. "It ain't hard."

Walker spends each day sprucing up Gulfport medians. At night, he does part-time work at a casino so he can "keep food on the table and help my little girl out." At least for the next 12 months, Walker's little girl won't get any extra help from her dad's main employer. Gulfport's new budget doesn't include employee pay raises.

Jerry Smith is Gulfport's Chief Administrative Officer. He crafted the fiscal year 2004 budget.

"The guidelines that the mayor set forth was no salary increases for any city employee this year," he said.

Back on Highway 90, Walker said he understood Gulfport's financial predicament.

"The city's gotta do what they gotta do," the leisure services worker said. "I just come in every morning. And whatever they got planned for us to do, we just do it, you know."

According to Jerry Smith, something as small as a 3% employee pay raise would have added $830,000 to Gulfport's budget. And he said right now, this city can't afford an expenditure like that. So 645 firefighters and other city employees must make it through another year on their current paychecks.

"Of course we're not happy about it," said Gulfport fireman Bryan Rowe. "We realize the city is in financial dire straits. But everybody would like a pay raise."

Six Gulfport firemen were at the Herbert Wilson Recreation Center, waiting to take their promotion test. Nearly 50 firefighters were vying for 12 department promotions. This year, a promotion is the only way the city firemen can make more money.

Thomas Regan has been a Gulfport firefighter since 1994.

"We're hoping that with good council and the proper planning, one of these days before too long, we will get a raise," he said. "And we'll deal with it until we get it."

Gulfport is not the only city eliminating employee pay raises. For the second year in a row, Long Beach workers won't get a salary bump. But every other South Mississippi city WLOX News checked with Wednesday had pay raises in next year's budget.