Proposed Gulfport budget includes significantly higher raise for - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Proposed Gulfport budget includes significantly higher raise for police officers than firefighters

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Gulfport City Council Member Ella Holmes-Hines spoke with WLOX at the city's fire station because in the proposed 2016 budget, police officers are set to receive a raise of $2,036.25 compared to $787.50 for Gulfport firefighters.

"I'm worried about the moral for public safety because we are a team here and we are a family," said Holmes-Hines.

Holmes-Hines said she believes police officers are worthy of the raise, but firefighters should be in line for the same pay increase.

"This (fire) chief as well as our police chief have done awesome work," said Holmes-Hines. "They both should be rewarded for that, not that one get ahead of another that's important to keep a team together."

Although Gulfport Fire Chief Michael Beyerstedt wouldn't talk publicly, WLOX obtained a letter that he sent to Gulfport City Council. In the letter he asked that first responders not be divided and he also had a detailed list of hazards firefighters face.

"When I look at some of the statistics that were provided to me 16 of our current firefighters have Tuberculosis," said Holmes-Hines. "They also experience exposures to HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. These are the exposures that they go through as well as police goes through that."

Another cause for concern for Holmes-Hines is the overall pay scale. First year firefighters in Gulfport are paid $7,000 less than Biloxi starting firefighters.

"What I'm hoping happens is the citizens who really value public safety would see that that trying to give a $2,000 raise versus one a $787 is not going to unify our city," said Holmes-Hines.

Gulfport employs 152 firefighters, 34 of those are eligible for retirement in two years. The council is set to vote on the budget and how to handle the raises Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

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