Wilmington city employees getting a raise, $1.3M pay package approved

If you work for the City of Wilmington, you may notice your paycheck is a little bigger than normal pretty soon.

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — If you work for the City of Wilmington, you may notice your paycheck is a little bigger than normal pretty soon.

City council voted unanimously to approve a $1,318,769 compensation package to give all city employees a raise. After the vote, employees in the crowd applauded the decision. City Manager Tony Caudle told the council, “on behalf of all city employees, thank you.”

The decision comes after an employee compensation study found the City of Wilmington underpaid its employees compared to neighboring municipalities and other cities similar in size.

According to the study, firefighters in Wilmington are paid 14-percent below market and police are 13-percent below. Hourly employees fall 9-percent below market and salaried employees fall 8-percent below.

The study also revealed a 9.3-percent turnover rate in the first six months of fiscal year 2022. Most employees leave voluntarily. Whether for a career change, another job, relocation, or even dissatisfaction. Currently, there are 129 vacancies across all departments.

Mayor Bill Saffo says they heard the concerns from the employees and wanted to address them, making sure all employees are adequately compensated and feel valued.

“This vote tonight was to make sure our employees, our public safety officials, our workers that are out there picking up the trash, cleaning out the ditches, cutting the trees, doing all the work for the city, compensating them fairly and equitably,” Saffo said.

With firefighters seeing the biggest difference in pay, Wilmington Fire Chief Steve Mason says this pay increase is huge.

“We have lost some of the people that we have invested in. The city spends a lot of money training a firefighter. For us to keep those people for a year or two or three and then for them to leave us for a few thousand dollars more that’s a pretty negative impact on our department and our city,” Mason said. “And then we’ve got to hire people and retrain them all over again.”

Typically, Mason says they see 400 to 500 applicants for a firefighter position, but this year they only saw 140. He says this pay bump will help them not only recruit, but retain talented people.

“It’s quite the challenge when the folks that work here to protect this city can’t afford to live here. And so, you know this comp plan helps us get a little bit closer to having some of our folks be able to afford to live in Wilmington and find a place to live or help them put food on the table. We’re extremely grateful,” Mason said.

Mayor Bill Saffo says the council wanted to make the decision now rather than wait for the budget season in June.

“These men and women have been working hard every single day,” Saffo said. “During covid, during some very extreme situations, during hurricanes, and a lot of other things and they deserve to get the compensation necessary. And we value them. We value them tremendously.”

The new compensation package will go into effect during the March 28, 2022 pay period.

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