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O’Fallon approves police pay raise

[Photo courtesy of the city of O’Fallon]

[Photo courtesy of the city of O’Fallon]

The O’Fallon City Council has approved a budget amendment that will put a new police pay plan in place starting June 25, which will result in a pay increase for police officers. The council passed the ordinance at its April 28 meeting.

At that meeting, City Administrator Bonnie Therrien said the council had asked staff to review police officer salaries in December and come back with a recommendation regarding the present salary plan.

Several months earlier, the council had discussed the same issue when a motion for a 3 percent pay raise was made, but the suggestion failed to get the required votes with a finally tally of 4-6.

When the idea of a police pay increase was first proposed, proponents of the increase expressed concerns regarding the current pay rate, including the increasing hazards of a police officer’s job and recruitment issues stemming from poor compensation.

On April 28, Therrien called the recruitment issue a “national phenomenon.”

“I have done a survey of fellow city administrators,” Therrien said. “Everybody’s having issues trying to recruit officers. But when you also have an obstacle such as police pay … it is really important we take a hard look at that.”

Therrien said in comparison with St. Charles County, O’Fallon’s minimums of police pay were lower.

In the former plan, the minimum and maximum salaries for an officer were $46,592 and $67,496, while the new plan features a minimum/maximum of $51,750.40 and $73,008. The different ranks, from sergeant through chief of police, feature increases as well, with an approximate 3.18 percent increase per rank for each of the 12 steps.

Another change in the new pay plan is the number of steps required to reach the maximum tier of pay. The previous structure had 16 steps for a police officer – the new proposal reduced that to 12.

If implemented midway through 2016, the city estimates the cost will be an unbudgeted $183,435. Full-year implementation costs for 2017 would be $479,141 above what is currently allocated in the budget.

Councilmember John Haman [Ward 3] said the council can’t wait five years to redo the pay plan, and that it should be a living document.

“If this passes and we settle on this one, it cannot stay stagnant, we’ve got to stay on top of it, we’ve got to re-evaluate every other year,” Haman said.

Councilmember Rick Lucas [Ward 1] complimented city staff on the proposed pay structure. “This needs to happen in every department … re-evaluate every position and the whole structure, make sure we are in line with where we need to be,” Lucas said. “I hope this is just the first step of many.”

The council suspended rules in order to vote on the ordinance twice, passing it unanimously on the second vote.

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