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Richard Danielson
By Richard Danielson September 22, 2011

Step increases for police supported in first budget

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's budget for fiscal year 2011-12, which was approved on Sept. 21, 2011, will include step increases for police and firefighters as well as merit increases for general employees.

In 2009, then-Mayor Pam Iorio suspended raises, including the step increases, for one year, a move she said saved employees from being laid off. Last year, she reinstated the raises.

During the mayoral campaign, the Police Benevolent Association, the union for Tampa's officers, asked Buckhorn whether he would try to suspend or eliminate the step plan, which awards raises based on their years of service.

No, Buckhorn said, adding that he tried to discourage Iorio from suspending the step program. In an interview on July 18, 2011, Buckhorn noted that the step increases are in the police and fire union's existing contracts, and that Iorio reinstated the raises, so "we're not doing anything differently than what Pam did last year.”

"In order for them to do something different, we would have to negotiate that out of their contracts,” he said.

"But more importantly, if you look at the job that they've done, particularly in police, where we've seen a 60 percent reduction in crime over the last eight years, which translates to 100,000 less victims in the city of Tampa, I think by any measure they have performed above and beyond the call of duty and have done more than we've asked them to do,” Buckhorn said. Paying the raises to "men and women who get up every day and put Kevlar on or bunker gear is a cost that I'm willing to take a hit for.”

The City Council approved the budget by a vote of 6-0 (Council Chairman Charlie Miranda was absent).

The cost of paying the step and merit raises is $2.4 million.

Asked whether it's possible that the unions could get a retroactive step increase to restore the one Iorio suspended – an idea the PBA floated during the campaign – Buckhorn said, ‘that's not going to happen.”

But that's out of bounds for the Buck-O-Meter. Buckhorn promised that he would not try to eliminate step increases for police, and his approved budget delivers them. We count that as a Promise Kept.

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