The mayor’s proposed 2014 budget for the City of South Bend seeks permanent pay parity between 911 and 311 specialists.
311 is a new city program that ruffled some feathers when it debuted last February.
311 operators were simply getting more money than their 911 counterparts for taking calls of a non-emergency nature.
“The 311 line was set up newly last year we wanted to make sure that had competitive salaries. And then we found that 911 salaries were lagging behind their peers,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
The 311 call center offers one number where residents can deal with a multitude of situations. For instance, they can report a trash pickup problem or a pothole, or they can get general information on city events or programs.
While the 311 program is designed to increase customer service—for some, it decreased morale.
One of the new 311 hires came from South Bend’s 911 dispatch center. They got a pay raise as they went from working midnights and holidays, to working weekdays and bankers hours at 311.
“As far as the pay, they were brought up to that approximately that of the, neck and neck with the personnel that are manning the 311 center,” said South Bend Police Captain Phil Trent, even though playing catch up meant pouring $230,000 into 911 pay raises as high as 20-percent.
Those raises are reflected in the mayor’s proposed 2014 budget proposal. “We actually took action last year as a mid-year measure and the council approved a request to bring the 911 salaries more in line so in this coming budget will reflect those moves that we made last year that we want to continue going forward,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “311 and 911 are very different but I’m proud of both those teams. The 911 dispatchers all obviously have a very stressful job and they respond with grace under pressure to solve problems for people with life threatening emergencies. The 311 operators also have a pretty stressful job because they take so many calls at a time.”
The record for the 311 center was actually 812 calls in a single day, yet 911 calls are in a class of their own. A 911 dispatcher has to have six months’ worth of training before they can fly solo on the switchboard.
Both 911 and 311 specialists now earn about $41,500.