Biloxi Employees Getting Pay Raises

Biloxi's finest filled the city council chamber Tuesday morning, eager to hear the fate of their 15 percent pay raise request.

"I came up with a raise that segregated the police and fire department," said Ward 4 Councilman Mike Fitzpatrick. "These 320 employees are out on the lines for the citizens of Biloxi."

Fitzpatrick recommended giving police and firefighters $5,196 more a year. While the rest of the city employees would get a smaller raise -- $4,010 a year.

"These uniformed officers have the most hazardous jobs that we have," said Ward 2 Councilman Bill Stallworth. "What we looked at was trying to find a way that we could recognize that distinction."

But other council members say the raises should be equal, across-the-board.

"I think instead of just doing one side higher than the other, I think we should just average it out to $4,500," said Ward 1 Councilman George Lawrence. "Every body should be happy with that."

"Everything's gone up since Katrina. It didn't just go up for the police and fire, it went up for all the employees," said Ward 7 Councilman David Fayard.

"This is not particularly a pay raise. This is the cost of living," said Ward 6 Councilman Ed Gemmill. "I feel much more inclined to give this directly across-the-board, an equitable amount, an even amount, to each and every employee."

So the council agreed to give all city employees an extra $4,593 a year.

"No, it's not the 15 percent that we originally asked for, but we are happy with the cost of living increase, and we're satisfied that we brought that to their attention," said Biloxi Fire Captain Michelle Crowley.

"Sure, we're happy," said Biloxi Police Officer Ron Weeks. "If the pay raise is there, then we can get some good police and firemen from other areas to come in. Hopefully, that'll mean we can get our numbers back up to where they should be so the citizens are safe."

The city council plans to adopt the budget next week. The raises and benefits will cost the city about $3.4 million. Money from other funds will be diverted to help cover the pay increases.