Raleigh city manager Ruffin Hall unveiled his proposed budget last week, and it gives city employees a 3 to 3.5 percent “merit pay” increase. But for the more than twenty- five hundred employees, including the majority of cops, who make less than $55,000 a year, that raise could effectively be erased by proposed changes to their health insurance coverage. In some cases, employees will actually take home less money.

In an email to city employees, Hall explained that the cost of spousal coverage has risen, and the city is adding more spouses than new employees. Additionally, high-cost claims related to “significant and chronic health challenges” have risen 35 percent in the last two years.

While the city will absorb 82 percent of the health plan increase for the next fiscal year, employees will pay more for premiums and copays. Additionally, family plans will cost an extra $60 per month, and if employees are married and their spouses have access to health insurance through their jobs, the employees will have to pay a $50 monthly surcharge for choosing to take the city’s coverage.

“It won’t be across the board, but some officers will take a pay cut depending on their circumstances,” says Rick Armstrong, vice president of Teamsters Local 391, Raleigh’s police union. “That is the overall problem. We believe RPD officers are paid substantially less than officers at other departments in Wake County.”

Armstrong estimates that, in the last year, RPD has lost at least a dozen officers who have gone to work in municipalities like Wake Forest or Holly Springs. He’s called for Raleigh cops to be paid a starting salary of $40,000 a year, a 15 percent increase.

“We understand that the city manager is conducting a pay study, but right now we are losing a lot of police officers on a regular basis, and we think something more substantial should be done.”

Along with firefighters, Raleigh police will make their case to the city council June 7.