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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council met today to start talking about the city’s next budget.

One of the issues that got the most attention, though, was employee morale.

Police Chief Ralph Evangelous says within the past six months alone he has lost four employees who left his department for better paying jobs. Now the city is trying to find a way to pay workers a little bit more.

“We have to retain our folks,” Evangelous said. “It makes no sense for us to continue to hire and then people leaving the organization.”

Monday Wilmington officials met to talk about a number of issues, including how to keep and retain city employees. Leaders say they have received several calls from constituents who say things need to be changed.

“It seems from our perspective and from what we are hearing is that these folks need the money now as opposed to defer that money down the road maybe 10 or 15 years, depending on how long they stay with the city, if they stay with the city that long,” Mayor Bill Saffo said.

Evangelous and Fire Chief Buddy Martinette say they continue to lose qualified employees because of the current pay scale, which ultimately affects their employees’ morale.

“I remember a number of years ago, I thought we implemented a base pay across the city of $29,000. That clearly is not the case, and we are continuing to pay a good deal under that,” Councilwoman Laura Padgett said.

Chief Evangelous says morale is low because new employees are making the same as seasoned officers who have been on the force for at least five years.

“Wwe have some employees who are getting promoted who are jumping over incumbents who have been in office who have been in that position for a number of years,” he said. “We have to fix the system.”

Mayor Bill Saffo says council will continue to look at a number of options, including increasing take-home pay by putting more money in salaries as opposed to employee benefits.

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