Last month, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba lobbied for a tax increase that he hoped could pay for salary increases for some officers in the Jackson Police Department and the Jackson Fire Department. The Jackson City Council unanimously voted the measure down, and now, those pay increases may have to come from federal COVID funds. It’s a move that Lumumba says is easier said than done.
“We’re going to have to bring someone on board to monitor and administer those funds. And we have someone we’re going to put up from a contract to do that,” he said. “We have to fully understand what it’s going to take to make sure the city is using the funds along federal guidelines.”
The City Council set aside $5 million in federal funds last month for salary increases, but those raises have been delayed because the city’s finance chair, Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks, says the Mayor’s office has yet to allocate the money. Banks says the first action they took involved finding a million dollars to increase the salaries for JPD corporals and JFD lieutenants to at least $41,000 per year.
“Hopefully, we can work together and put that money into the appropriate line items within the JPD and the fire department to begin having that pay up by 2024,” Banks said.
Banks says that using federal COVID relief funds could raise the pay even higher, increasing corporals or lieutenant salaries to $45,000 a year and JPD sergeant/JFD captain salaries to $48,000.
“To stay in compliance with the federal guidelines, we must be able to demonstrate how the increases of the premium pay are connected in response to COVID-19,” Lumumba said. “If we fail to do that, if we just issue or allocate money, we subject ourselves to being penalized. And as a city, we’ll be unable to receive federal funding in the future.”
The delay in salary raises has already stirred disapproval from the rank and file in JFD. Local 87 Union President RaSean Thomas said earlier this month that morale is low and many firefighters feel forgotten.
“We believe that our leadership is incompetent – from top to bottom. And we don’t believe that they address the issues that are deemed necessary or that are dear to the firefighters’ heart[s].” he said. “The likelihood of trucks not responding, the likelihood of firefighters not coming to work, the likelihood of guys wanting to leave the department is very strong right now. We have to do better.”
Lumumba said Tuesday that he plans to present a contract to the Council soon, but stopped short of saying when the salary increases would take place or who the contract would be with.