Salary increases delayed for some Jackson police, firefighters

Finance chair says Lumumba administration has to act on allocating federal funds to move forward
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 8:50 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - While the Jackson City Council set more than $5 million in federal funds aside last month to increase salaries for some police and firefighters in the city, those actions have been delayed because the city’s finance committee chairman says the mayor’s administration has yet to allocate that money.

“What we did was set that [federal] money aside in an account. Now the administration has to act. And hopefully we can work together in the coming weeks to go ahead and put that money into the appropriate line items within the police and fire department to go ahead and begin to have that premium pay up until 2024,” said Ward 6 Councilman and finance committee chair Aaron Banks.

The first action the council took, Banks said, involved finding a million dollars to increase salaries for Jackson Police Department corporals and Jackson Fire Department lieutenants, bumping them to $41,000 annually.

Banks and other council members went one step further by using federal COVID relief funds to raise pay even more, increasing corporals/lieutenant salaries to $45,000 a year and increasing JPD sergeant/JFD captain salaries to $48,000.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba expressed concerns about the move six weeks ago during budget deliberations, asking the council if the move to refer to the pay raises as “premium pay” in order to use the federal money was even legal.

“We’re on a public record right now, for the federal government to look at us saying that we’re about to give a pay raise, but call it premium pay, right?” Lumumba said on August 26. “So they can just pull down this record and say, ‘you’re lying.’ We’re talking about doctoring some language to use this other alternative.”

Banks said he understands those concerns but doesn’t think those reservations from the mayor are causing any delay in getting those raises out.

“I take the word that was given to us on a good faith word from the mayor. This is the reason why the budget passed. And so hopefully we can move forward. This doesn’t have to be contentious,” Banks said.

Lumumba said in September that he would be bringing someone before the council with a CPA background to be able to help monitor and track these federal expenditures for salaries, but that has not yet happened.

“It is frustrating to me, you know. I would like to see the priority put into this to go ahead and make sure that we can check the dots, cross the T’s, you know, and mark all the boxes in going to get this done. But I do understand that we’ve had some other things that have taken priority,” Banks said, referring to garbage contract issues that resulted in the mayor and city council trading jabs and hiring council to determine how to move forward.

When asked if this delay was related to any kind of differences between the mayor and the council, Banks said he would hope not.

He also said he doesn’t want residents or first responders to think their elected leaders are dragging their feet on this.

“Let’s be patient, trust all the governing authorities to work on your behalf,” Banks said. “You might be a family of a police officer, a family of a fire lieutenant. Communicate to the men, communicate to the council so they can see the same priorities that we all feel out there. When we keep the people first, the government works for us.”

3 On Your Side sent several questions to Lumumba’s office Wednesday, asking the mayor about the next steps his administration would need to take to implement these salary increases.

Those questions were not answered; instead, interim communications director Ashley McLaughlin released a short statement concerning the matter.

“This matter requires full understanding of the policy and appropriate implementation to ensure accountability and sustainability. The mayor will address this matter at his weekly press briefing,” McLaughlin said, which indicates the mayor may respond to these concerns on Monday.

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