After five years of stagnant pay, N.C. State Highway Patrol troopers will receive a 5 to 6 percent salary increase as part of a $21 billion budget passed by state legislators last week.
Pay for troopers and other state jobs has been mostly frozen since 2009 as North Carolina struggled to balance the budget during the recession.
The 2014-15 budget increases salary for state troopers sworn in between 2005 and June 30 this year by 5 to 6 percent. Starting salary for troopers is $34,000 and is capped at $57,000.
“We know the House and Senate struggled with this issue long and hard,” said Trooper Daniel Jenkins Jr., president of the N.C. Troopers Association headquartered in Greensboro.
Jenkins said that the 2009 pay freeze “definitely affected our applicant pool and the turnover rate,” but that a salary increase should put hiring and employee retention on the right track.
“Even though we would like to see more from leaders, we feel like this is a step in the right direction,” Jenkins said.
The state Highway Patrol has 125 vacancies, three of which are in Mecklenburg County.
In January, Gov. Pat McCrory made available $7.5 million for raises in high-demand state professions. Around 600 law enforcement officials, including some troopers, received up to a 4 percent pay raise.
The budget that has now passed also calls for the Highway Patrol to conduct a study that considers evaluating prospective troopers based on previous law enforcement or military experience.
Jenkins said that, as it stands, a 21-year-old applicant with no experience would start at the same salary as an applicant with 15 years of law enforcement or military experience. Experienced applicants probably take large pay cuts to become troopers, he added.
The state Highway Patrol would be required to report the study’s findings no later than Feb. 1.
“We look forward to the results of the study and hopefully it will help us with increasing the applicant pool,” Jenkins said.