KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — We’re learning more about the plan to raise wages for dozens of Knoxville city employees. Last month, Mayor Indya Kincannon proposed a strategy to fight staffing shortages in the city’s core services.

The plan would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for full-time and permanent part-time employees. More than 1,550 people work for the city of Knoxville.

“Their compensation is to reflect how valuable they are to our community,” Kincannon said Thursday during the City Council work session.

The mayor and several others believe city workers deserve a more competitive payment.

“As we’ve seen in the past it’s been lagging for many, many years. This is important to us. This is important to the community,” said Knoxville Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Faddis.

Under the proposed compensation plan, all city employees besides the mayor and council members would have a 6% salary increase with the goal to balance inflation.

The plan also includes adjusting salary ranges across departments to better match market comparison and a one-time “gap” compensation adjustment payment for current employees working through the end of the current fiscal year.

“There’s a lot of challenges in hiring new employees as well as trying to keep our training employees from leaving,” said Knoxville’s Deputy Director of Engineering Steve King. “They get job offers, hired jobs, and our ability to keep these core services going is strained.”

Right now, there are 149 jobs open with the city but with low applicants, low retention, and an aging workforce, it’s causing some to worry.

“Ninety folks that are able to retire under two years, and we have right under fifty folks that are able to retire today,” said Knoxville Police Department investigator Jason Booker.

“Within two years 75 people, little bit above right around there, can walk off and leave,” Faddis said of KFD. “Of course, we’re hoping to recruit more to fill those spots, so everybody moves up.”

After conducting a study the city paid for, Russell Campbell with Management Advisory Group International is recommending for city leaders to implement a 25-step-increase plan for firefighters and police officers. Campbell presented the compensation proposal Thursday to City Council members.

Booker says the new payment plan would go a long way and he’s never seen the Knoxville Police Department so short-handed.

KPD has an authorized strength of 416 officers but currently 374 are employed. In the last two years, 82 officers have left KPD, 25 retired, 55 resigned, and two medically retired.

“We’ve got guys and gals working 12-hour shifts with forced overtime; we need help,” Booker said.

If the new compensation plan is approved, it would take effect July 1. It is unclear how the plan would be funded but all options are on the table.