PTC to hike cop pay in recruitment bid

Thu, 06/21/2007 - 3:24pm
By: John Munford

City will hike cop pay in recruitment bid

At Wednesday night’s budget workshop, the city council generally agreed to implement immediately a higher starting salary scale for police officers and coinciding raises for existing police officers. The scale allows for those salaries to increase 4.5 percent, and bilingual officers will get another 4.5 percent salary increase.

The pay hike is in response to a request from Police Chief James Murray, who says it’s necessary to start attracting high-quality recruits.

Council is also leaning toward hiring a total of three new police officers, all of whom would be dedicated to patrolling on the city’s cart path. Murray noted, however, that he couldn’t deploy those officers on that duty until he filled all of his existing vacant positions because of the need to answer routine emergency calls.

Depending on which version of the budget is adopted, its possible the city could avoid a millage rate increase, but that would require using about $1.2 million from the city’s cash reserve fund. Even doing that would leave the city with enough cash in reserves, officials said.

Councilman Steve Boone initially suggested that the city wait to hire more new police until after the department becomes fully-staffed. That led to a brief heated exchange between Boone and councilwoman Judi-ann Rutherford, who argued the positions should be fully funded now, and if they aren’t filled the city won’t spend the money.

By evaluating the issue in mid-year, it would make it appear as if the city is avoiding a possible millage rate increase, Rutherford said.

Council is also looking at hiring six firefighters to increase the staffing level on a shift to 17, which would put two firefighters on a truck for most of the department’s fleet. That would help in meeting a national standard of having four firefighters on a scene within the first five minutes of a fire, officials have said.

It’s also possible that the city may qualify for a lower ISO rating with the additional firefighters, and if that happens residents will qualify for a discount on their homeowner’s insurance. Although it will vary from company to company, a survey of several companies conducted by the city showed savings could range from $41 to $100 based on actual policies that were written for residents in Peachtree City.

Acting Fire Chief Ed Eiswerth cautioned that there is no guarantee that the ISO rating would be reduced, but he said the additional personnel could help the city qualify for a federal grant for more firefighters, which could bring the city’s staff up to 19, allowing for two firefighters to be on all apparatus.

The police raises would bump salaries of new uncertified officers from a range of $30,942-$32,841 to $32,355-$35,379. Certified officers would be increased from the current maximum of $33,993 to a range of $35,546-$37,140.

City Manager Bernie McMullen recommended the raises be implemented immediately using the money in the department’s existing 2007 budget based on salary savings accrued over this fiscal year.

Murray noted that the raises would bring the city in roughly the middle of the pack among area agencies in terms of salary offered for new officers.

McMullen said the city would develop guidelines for determining whether or not a officer would qualify for the bilingual raise. While there is a need for hispanic speaking officers, the city also has some companies whose workers come from France or Germany who only speak those languages, Murray noted.

The budgets considered by council also included several new personnel including a full-time accounting specialist. Council also agreed to allow a new building maintenance specialist to be hired, but only with existing funds in the public works budget that will be freed up through attrition.

Council also agreed to make the city’s part-time planning assistant full time for one year on a contract basis to help eliminate a backlog of work in the department.

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