Salt Lake police officers stricken with the "blue flu" last year and firefighters who boycotted City Employee Appreciation Day over a lack of pay raises don't know yet if city leaders will give them a pay hike this year.

Meeting Saturday to consider a list of budget proposals for crafting this year's budget, the Salt Lake City Council directed its staff to further study the possibility of giving city employees salary increases.Already, the city is facing a $2.5 million budget gap for next year, the city Finance Department said. A merit increase for city employees would cost an additional $650,000 while a 1 percent cost-of-living increase would cost $500,000.

Last year, after a budget that included raises was vetoed by Mayor Palmer DePaulis, the City Council approved a $79 million budget without employee pay increases.

With no pay hikes, angry Salt Lake police officers came down with a bout of 24-hour "blue-flu" and missed work for a day last summer. Firefighters picketed an annual city picnic to show dismay over no raises.

Union representatives from the city's three unions have been attending budget-related meetings with the council and will likely monitor the budget process closely this year.

But any answer to their questions may not come until the final days of the budget process, which ends at the end of the fiscal year in June.

"(The) staff recommends that additional research be done and that the financial decision be made during the latter part of the budget process," the council's staff wrote.

The council said a property tax increase would not be considered this year, meaning the city must find ways of trimming and enhancing this year's budget to erase the $2.5 million gap.

Among the proposals the council generally supported was charging accident victims for medical services administered by fire crews. The city spends $358,000 on the 12,000 medical calls the department makes.

"Across the country, assessing a charge of emergency medical services is an increasingly frequent option being initiated by local governments," the council's staff wrote.