$12.8M pay increase for City of Louisville employees under consideration

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer wants to spend $12.8M to boost pay for city employees to help with recruitment and retention in light of the “Great Resignation.” The money would come from federal funds and left over dollars the city didn’t have the chance to spend due to COVID-19.

“A better-than-expected revenue picture and federal funds have put us in position to address some of the salary issues which are hindering our ability to recruit and retain employees needed to serve the public,” Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, the ordinance’s sponsor said in a news release.

Just five months into the fiscal year, 7.04% of city employees have quit their jobs; many have left for the private sector or higher paying jobs, according to the release. It went on to say the city’s compensation rate is lower than market.

Due to Metro Louisville’s limited funding over the past few years, union employees have received between 0-2% percent raises, and the non-union grid has not changed since 2016.

The employee shortage is especially apparent in the city’s police department and jail. Metro Corrections currently has 142 vacancies with more corrections officers set to leave in the new year. Louisville Corrections FOP President, Daniel Johnson told WAVE 3 News officers are quitting because they’re under paid and overworked.

“The two main factors is the money and the hours,” Johnson said. “Because we’re so short staffed, you’re going to work 60 to 70 hours a week and be asked to do more.”

The starting pay for a Metro Corrections officer is $17 per hour. Johnson said that kind of money cannot compete with the private sector and other departments around the country.

“Since the retirement system has changed now, we’re basically competing with everyone because you would take a lower wage knowing you can retire in 20 years,” Johnson said. “You can’t do that anymore, but the pay hasn’t increased.”

Johnson believes a pay raise could help fix the staff problem at the jail, depending on how the city would divide up the $12.8M. He said the ideal amount would be an additional $7 an hour across all positions.

“If we were to do a $5 increase, that would put us at $22 an hour, and that would put us competitive, and we would still be scrapping and trying to lure people to us, but I think $7 is the magic number that would solve our recruiting and retention issues overnight,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, (if nothing changes) we’re going to see a spike of more people getting hurt, more loss of life, just because we don’t have the numbers to supervise and keep people safe the way we could be doing if we were fully staffed.”

The city has not addressed how the money would be divided among departments.

The Budget Committee will consider the proposal during its Dec. 9 meeting before Metro Council makes final action on Dec. 16.

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