Killeen civil service employees are underpaid based on the market, and city officials are taking measures to ensure police officers and firefighters don’t leave the city for a more attractive salary elsewhere, like Austin.
City officials presented a compensation study to the Killeen City Council at its Tuesday workshop meeting. According to the study, Killeen police are 8 percent underpaid and firefighters are 13 percent underpaid compared to similar-size cities. The numbers include the 3 percent raise that was approved last month by the council.
City Manager Glenn Morrison proposed an additional 5 percent raise for civil service employees in the fiscal year 2015 budget, presented last week. However, now he thinks the hike may not be aggressive enough.
“We have a very well-trained force here and because of that, we’re attractive to other entities,” Morrison said. “I can assure you that there’s a large city to the south of us (Austin) that has a university that is going to put the call out for 150 police officers in January. They’re already coming and they’re already calling.”
Morrison said he plans to bring another proposal to the council soon looking at what a 6, 7 and 8 percent increase would look like for the fire and police departments.
Ann Farris, assistant city manager, said when developing the compensation study, staff looked at neighboring cities and cities of similar size to Killeen.
Killeen was compared to cities such as Abilene, Frisco, Georgetown, Pasadena and San Marcos.
Matt Weatherly, a consultant for the study, said population size, the presence of a college or a military installation and cost of living also were taken into consideration while developing the study.
When asked if the city feared losing police officers and firefighters to Austin, Morrison said: “Retaining our staff is what we would like to do. We know there are options and opportunities out there, so we’re never going to stop that, but we can minimize that to a manageable measure.”
Morrison said the department is down 18 officers. If an additional 10 officers left for other opportunities, he said the city would not be able to function properly.
Morrison said the sooner and the closer the city can get to the suggested market rate “the better off we are.” Funds for increased salary hikes are within the police and fire departments’ current budgets, he said.
Councilman Juan Rivera fully backed the idea of a higher increase. “Let’s quit having a city that trains people for other cities.”
Councilman Terry Clark said a 13 percent difference in pay “would be worth” driving to an outlying city.
Councilmen Jonathan Okray and Jose Segarra argued that Killeen’s affordable housing market may give employees incentive to stay.
Segarra said there may be more money in Austin, but housing comes at a steeper price.