9 Investigates: Charlotte employees say salaries don't provide for families

by: Jenna Deery Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Taxpayers pay their salaries, but some city of Charlotte employees say they're not making enough to provide for their families.
 
In a 9 investigation, Eyewitness News uncovered a new push to get them raises, how their salaries stack up to other local water utilities services, and how it could cost you.
 
Utility workers told Eyewitness News they've gone years without getting pay increases and when they get them, the additional pay doesn't meet higher costs or even the standard cost of living.
 
Michael Mills said he's an example. He's worked for the city for 17 years and still makes under $40,000 a year. He is his family's sole provider and he doesn't feel he gets the pay he deserves.
 
"We're not looking to get rich. We're looking to be compensated for the work that we do," said Mills.
 
The utilities union, UE-150, is requesting pay raises that keep up with inflation.
 
The average annual pay for a CMUD worker is $36,340.73. In Union County, workers are making an average of $46,761. In Concord, the median pay for a service worker is $32,979.
 
The city of Charlotte sets salaries based on what other utilities services pay. Economist at Queens University, Harry Bowen says that's a common practice.
 
"The idea is that well if you don't like this job then go find the other that you think is going to pay you more," said Bowen.
 
However, city councilman John Autry worries that could mean good quality workers leaving the city.
 
"That should be a concern to the whole city. We want the best people working for the city," he said.
 
Eyewitness News asked Autry is higher salaries would mean higher water bills or taxes. 
 
"If you are going to increase salaries the revenue has got to come from somewhere," answered Autry.
 
City manager Ron Carlee told Channel 9 through email city leaders are "studying their request in context of the city's market-based pay policy" in reference to the union's request for higher pay.
 
City leaders are considering a 3 percent merit increase for city workers. They received a 2 percent increase last year.