The Zachary City Council on Tuesday approved pay raises for the city’s police officers in an effort to retain employees who may be lured away by the salaries offered at other agencies.

Instead of hiring two new dispatchers, the Police Department is upping officers’ hourly pay rate from $15.50 to $16.07 and dispatchers from $13.80 to $15.53.

The department recently lost a couple of officers to the Baton Rouge Police Department because they’re already trained and can make a smooth transition into the job, Police Chief David McDavid said.

“This is not costing the city more money,” McDavid said, but it will help the department be more competitive with other law enforcement agencies.

The money saved by not hiring the two dispatchers is helping fund the pay raises. The department has three dispatchers now, which is acceptable for a city of Zachary’s size — about 16,000 residents — under Association of Public Communication Officials regulations, McDavid said. The dispatchers handle 80 to 90 calls every week, he said.

Still, “there’s a limit to what a city our size can pay,” Mayor David Amrhein said, adding that few government entities are able to give yearly pay raises anymore because of rising costs of retirement and benefits.

He said he’s glad the Police Department managed to find a way to give raises, despite the city having to trim its budget.

In another matter, the council introduced two proposed ordinances setting the rate for property taxes — one at 3.08 mills, which is close to the current 3.17 rate, and another rolling it forward to 5.64 mills, the maximum allowed without voter approval. The council will vote to approve one of the two proposals at a meeting later this summer, and members will decide if they want to raise the property tax, City Attorney John Hopewell said.

The council previously has discussed raising the property tax rate in an effort to offset declining sales tax revenue. A vote on changing the rate has been delayed since it was first brought up at a February meeting because the parish assessor didn’t determine the maximum allowable rate for 2016 until recently, Hopewell said.

If approved, it would be the first increase in the property tax rate in at least 10 years, Hopewell said.

The council also agreed to require commercial sprinkler systems in apartments, hotels and similar buildings.