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PHOENIX -- The man who represents Phoenix police officers at the negotiating table said the city's budget battle is taking its toll.

"Particularly government employees seem to be the villains of a lot of politicians and folks in general and it gets a little old," said Joe Clure, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA). "It has a tremendous adverse impact on morale."

After more than five years with no new hires and wage concessions, Clure said officers deserve a 3.6 percent pay increase. PLEA's contract proposal also calls for no change to pension spiking for employees hired before July 1, 2014. Spiking is the practice of using sick leave, vacation leave and uniform allowance payments to increase annual pensions.

The city's proposal would freeze merit raises and longevity bonuses and limit pension spiking. After PLEA and the city could not come to terms, an outside attorney conducted a fact-finding hearing. According to his investigation, the city's repeal of 1 percent of the food tax deprived the city of money it could have used to pay officers. The fact finder recommends that the police union's proposal be adopted.

The city manager estimates a nearly $38 million budget deficit and council members are considering increasing fees and taxes and cutting employee compensation to make up the shortfall. The current trial budget compiled by the city manager includes $19 million in merit raises and productivity enhancements, also known as longevity bonuses.

During Wednesday's council meeting, PLEA and three other unions will present their cases. An updated budget should be presented to council members on May 6 with a decision on employee contracts expected by May 7.

Christina Estes, Reporter

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