In response to concerns raised by the police chief, the Woodstock City Council approved a one-time pay incentive for more than 40 sworn officers, after an hour and a half of discussion at its meeting Monday.
City Manager Jeff Moon said officers should be paid competitively and the issue needed to be looked at in the city’s upcoming budget for fiscal 2015, which starts this July.
“We can never pay these men and women what they truly deserve for risking their lives every day,” Moon said.
Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss said he appreciated the council’s willingness to discuss the problem in-depth at the meeting, and was glad to get approval for the one-time incentive.
“In the short-term, the mayor and city council approved a one-time, lump-sum payment to sworn officers with more than one year at the Woodstock Police Department,” Moss explained. “It’s a one-time thing, and they should receive that in mid-March.”
Moss first presented a plan to increase salaries for police officers based on years of service and training levels during the city’s planning retreat in January, prompting the council to start a citywide salary study — looking at each department separately to determine its needs.
Moss said he hoped for full implementation of his plan in the upcoming budget, and was hopeful after the council’s discussion at the meeting.
He told council the Woodstock Police Department has a high rate of officer turnover, and pinpointed the main problem being that the city’s officers aren’t competitively paid.
“We have 21 officers in the Woodstock Police Department that are currently making $16.02 an hour, with hiring dates as far back as 2007. We’ve got new officers hired in December who are making $16.02 an hour,” Moss said at the retreat, and reiterated at the meeting Monday.
Since the retreat in January, Moss said the Woodstock Police Department saw three more officers resign.
Moon said a long-term salary plan for the police department, which could include raises and promotions based on years of service and officer training, needed to be looked at as part of the citywide budget and implemented in a fiscally responsible way.
“I feel (Moss’) proposal goes a long way toward solving those issues, however, I feel it’s a disservice to them and to the public if it is implemented and it turns out to be unsustainable,” Moon said.
Moon, along with many council members, said they agreed with Moss’ plan, but agreed it needed to be looked at as part of the entire budget before being passed.
“While the easy solution tonight would be to adopt the package that the chief has presented, I do have the same concern I had at the retreat, regarding the fiscal responsibility of addressing the city’s compensation issues in a piece-mill manner,” Moon said. “I fully agree, the chief has done an excellent job of defining what the problem is; I agree. I don’t disagree with him at all, and I think he’s proposed, potentially, a very viable solution to addressing the problem.”
Moon said it’s important to work the salary changes into the budget so they can be sustained, and said approving the chief’s plan ahead of the next fiscal year budget could lead to other problems.
“Each department’s problem is unique, and a cookie-cutter solution simply won’t work,” Moon said. “My fear is that addressing this problem in a piece-mill fashion will create other problems — it’s the law of unintended consequences.”
The council vowed to implement a long-term salary plan for the police department with the 2015 fiscal year budget, which begins July 1, and in the meantime, voted unanimously to allow Moss to give officers the salary incentive in mid-March.
The one-time pay incentive approved by council is based on part of the chief’s original salary plan: officers who have been with the city one to three years will receive a specific amount added to their March 13 paycheck, while officers who have been with the department four to nine, or 10 or more years, will receive a higher amount.
While Moss’ plan also includes pay incentives for training and education, the one-time salary incentive only accounts for years of service.
About $44,000 that the chief has set aside from the department’s fiscal 2014 budget will be dispersed to just more than 40 officers, based on the amount of years they have been with the department.
The amount of money council approved for the one-time incentive consists of what the officers “would have received between now and June 30 (the end of fiscal 2014)” based on the chief’s salary increases for years of service, had the chief’s plan been implemented.
Moss said he understood why the council needed to look at the entire budget before deciding on his plan, and thanked council for taking the problem seriously.
Moon said city staff would continue to study all departments and address many departmental salary issues in the upcoming fiscal year.
“Wholesale changes to compensation plans are usually looked at organization-wide — all departments, all issues, all benefits, all policies,” he said. “Normally, wholesale compensation changes are looked at as part of a budget process … you look at the whole budget for the city.”