Municipal employees protest 2% raise as too little ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidson * Edgewater * Shady Side * Dale

June 22, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Armed with picket signs, more than 120 police officers, firefighters and municipal workers packed Annapolis City Hall last night to protest that a proposed 2 percent pay raise was not enough.

The workers waved signs urging, "Status Quo -- Gotta Go" and "Negotiate -- Don't Dictate" as the City Council was considering late last night Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins' proposed $38.3 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Mr. Hopkins recently scrapped a plan to give the city's 150 workers a 5 percent raise on each of their next two anniversaries amid sharp council criticism of a study that called for the salary overhaul.

Council members had attacked the report by Yarger and Associates, a Falls Church, Va., consulting company hired by the city, as "highway robbery" because it recommended hefty increases for department heads. The three women on the council also questioned whether it was biased against women.

City workers who have gone without a cost-of-living increase for the last two years said they're furious that there was no other option for a higher raise. A standing-room-only crowd also objected that the city wants them to pay 3 percent more for health benefits -- which they say results in a net loss.

"The fact is they're not negotiating -- they're dictating," argued John Morgan, president of the union representing about 90 city firefighters.

Sgt. John Mellon, a 19-year veteran of the city Police Department, said the Yarger report pointed out that most officers are saddled with an increasing workload. About 20 members have quit the 120-officer force in the last year, complaining that they're stuck in dead-end jobs and disillusioned by dim prospects for higher pay and better benefits.

Officers are most worried by the threat of losing disability benefits, Sergeant Mellon said. The union is fighting the city's plan to reduce the benefits of those injured in the line of duty from two-thirds of their salary to 20 percent for the first 10 years and 2 percent for each additional year they've served.

"All of the officers are very apprehensive. We're exposed to risk every day," Sergeant Mellon said. "We're exposed to injury every day. And now officers will risk everything they own to do their job."

Three police officers who were hurt in the line of duty have been fighting for the last two years to be retired with full benefits.

Cpl. James Doran, 38, a 15-year police veteran who was wounded in a shoot-out in February, voiced the same concerns.

He said he considers himself lucky to be working after being shot in the abdomen and leg by a gunman who ambushed him and three other officers in an apartment on Clay Street.

"You go out here and you put your butt on the line and you get shot," he told a reporter last night. "I realize that's the risk of the job. At the same time, you do want to be treated with some respect."

The council heard five zoning applications before it debated the budget, which would reduce the city's property tax rate by 8 cents.

The mayor has suggested that some of the money originally earmarked for raises for city workers be used instead to reduce the property tax rate from $1.80 per $100 of assessed value to $1.72. He first proposed giving city taxpayers a nickel rebate.

Last night, Mr. Hopkins announced that the city had lost a $115,000 state contract to run shuttle buses from the city to Anne Arundel Medical Center downtown. That sum had to be deleted from the budget, he said.

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