Zachary’s police chief wants to raise his officers' starting salary by about $3,000 a year to try to help recruit and retain officers.
But when Chief David McDavid raised the issue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor David Amrhein cautioned that it might not be feasible to give raises without scaling back benefits.
Rookie officers currently get paid about $33,420 a year; McDavid asked the mayor and council to consider increasing that to $36,525. He also wants to raise the initial pay for dispatch, records clerk and secretary positions.
“We’re spending all this money on training, time, benefits and equipment, and we’re losing them to other agencies," McDavid said. "We need to really look at bringing the pay scale up to where we can retain these people.”
The department is losing valuable employees to other area law enforcement agencies that “are coming after us left and right,” offering better pay, he said. A skilled detective, for example, was recently hired away.
“With the pay they live on, it’s hard to make ends meet,” McDavid said.
While the council took no action of the matter Tuesday, Amrhein said his staff will look into the possibility of adjusting the police pay scale. But it could come at the cost of cutting back on insurance coverage, retirement contributions or other benefits because “there’s not an endless pot of money here,” Amrhein said.
“Whatever you do to this scale here, you affect the overall picture,” he said. “If you give a $1 raise to everybody across the board, you’re adding 42 cents in benefits across the board” under the city’s current benefits package.
And while higher pay could help attract employees, Amrhein said, it might not be enough to keep them.
“Young people today, they’re not going to stay in jobs any more,” he said, noting that it’s increasingly uncommon for people to spend their entire career at one workplace.
Tuesday marked the final meeting for Councilman Brandon Noel, who is resigning because he recently moved to a house outside city limits.
Noel has held the District 2 council seat since 2011.
“This has been a wonderful, wonderful ride,” he said.
The council will appoint a temporary replacement before the end of the year. An election to fill the remainder of his term will be held in April.