In an effort to retain and recruit civil service employees, the Killeen City Council reached a consensus at a Tuesday workshop meeting to tack on an additional 3 percent pay increase to the originally proposed 5 percent for police and fire personnel.
City Manager Glenn Morrison originally proposed a 5 percent increase for civil service employees at a cost of $1.13 million when he presented the proposed 2015 fiscal year budget at a July 8 council meeting. However, with Killeen Police Department officers leaving the department for cities with more attractive salaries, the council agreed with city officials at its July 15 meeting that a more aggressive approached as needed.
A compensation study also showed that Killeen police officers are 8 percent underpaid and firefighters are 13 percent underpaid based on the market.
Councilmen Jose Segarra, Juan Rivera, Wayne Gilmore and Terry Clark agreed to the proposed 8 percent raise. Councilmen Jonathan Okray and Steve Harris disagreed with the proposal.
Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone was absent.
The additional 3 percent on top of the originally proposed 5 percent adds $761,000 to the budget, for a total of $1.89 million to sustain the increase for police and fire personnel.
“As far as the police department goes, they’re able to handle that without any impact,” Morrison said. “In the fire department, they’re not quite in that position. So, what we will have to do is look at cost savings and attrition. Also, we will look through the general fund as the year went on to look at any cost savings that we might have. I feel confident we’re able to handle those adjustments in the general fund.”
Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said the department currently has 18 vacancies and another officer recently put in notice to leave. He said once a candidate enters the academy, it takes about 18 months before officers are in the field answering calls on their own.
With other agencies recruiting in Killeen and officers leaving the department for higher pay, city staff hopes a pay increase will mitigate the problem.
“Quite frankly, I can tell you Houston, Austin, Dallas, Las Vegas, (Los Angeles Police Department), New York, they all come here,” Baldwin said. “Where we’re losing a lot of all our officers (is to) the agencies within Texas.”
Baldwin said the No. 1 reason for an officer to leave the department is pay.
“They are looking at higher pay; that’s a big thing to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t have the commitment and the care for this community, but they also have a commitment and care for their families, and I understand that.”
Baldwin said the department has “been down this road before.”
“We know we’re heading down this road again if we don’t do something,” he said.