By Lisa Soule
Killeen Daily Herald
While Killeen Mayor Maureen Jouett said she has always supported higher pay for public safety workers, she has not been able to advocate for it in the past.
Now I can push for it, Jouett said, noting her husband has retired as a deputy chief from the Killeen Fire Department. She said her public advocacy while her husband was on the force may have been perceived as a conflict of interest.
I feel really strongly about police and fire pay, Jouett said after Tuesdays council meeting. The council had been discussing a list of budget issues during a workshop, which was cut short after Jouett suggested continuing the workshop discussion on television after the regular meeting.
Councilman Scott Cospers motion to adjourn was followed by second, halted budget discussions.
Besides the discussion of a 12-item list compiled by the city manager, Jouett said she had her own list, which she delivered to the council at the workshop.
Increases in police and fire pay topped the mayors list.
Jouett noted that non-civil service employees are classified by more than 50 different levels. There are only eight levels for police and fire.
The mayors list also included upping the citys match for retirement pensions for police and fire.
The West Bell County Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police has sent a payroll survey via e-mail to the mayor and council members and suggested a pay increase.
FOP President Frank Plowick said the plan, which would bring Killeen closer to the pay of similar cities, would cost the city about $600,000.
While the mayor may be intent on pushing the issues through, some council members say its a belated effort.
I think its a little late to be bringing that up since the preliminary tax rate has been set, Cosper said. It will be hard to fund a bunch of new programs ... it would have to come out of somebody elses budget.
Councilman Dick Young agreed.
Every dollar of the 69.9-cent tax rate is basically already committed, Young said. If people want to bring forth projects that cost money, we will have to draw down.
Councilman Ernest Wilkerson said he is open to looking into the matter.
I think weve got to realize that the citizens of Killeen value their fire and police protection, Wilkerson said. They have stated it several times.
If an increase was approved, Wilkerson said the city may be able to scrub the budget in order to come up with the funds.
Councilman Dan Corbin said he has not had an opportunity to study the issue.
I do not have all the facts, Corbin said. I am absolutely committed to not discussing any issue until I have all the facts and have done all my homework.
City Manager David Blackburn said that although the preliminary tax rate has been set and it cannot go higher, the council may make adjustments as it sees fit.
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