Council Approves Public Safety Funding Bandaid

From the Scottsdale Republic this morning (also now on AZCentral). Note that Mayor Lane and Council members Robbins, Milhaven, and Korte voted AGAINST fully funding public safety.

Council approves increase in police, fire personnel funding

By Edward Gately The Republic |
The Scottsdale City Council has ap­proved a boost in funding for police and fire personnel.

The city’s Police and Fire depart­ments on Sept. 10 asked the council for several million dollars more in ongoing funding to cover permanent pay raises for police officers and staffing of a downtown fire station.

After much deliberation, the council approved an increase in ongoing funding for both police and fire, but less than what was being requested by the depart­ments. Combined, the approvals added more than $2 million in ongoing cost in­creases for the 2014-15 budget, said City Manager Fritz Behring.

“We had expected to see additional revenues next year, especially in our sales tax,” he said. “Basically the deci­sions (Tuesday) limit the ability of the council to have additional funds to spend in other areas. We have programmed ad­ditional costs in other areas of the bud­get, but there’s only so much of the pie to work with and the council is going to have to continue to evaluate other areas that are lower priorities that we can cut costs.

Fire Chief Tom Shannon presented the council with two options to increase staffing at downtown’s Station 602:

  • Hiring 13 new firefighters this fis­cal year, which would require a transfer of $918,700 to the Fire Department from the city’s general fund contingency, to cover an overtime gap and the partial­-year costs to hire and train firefighters. The ongoing cost would be $814,300 a year.
  • Authorizing a transfer of $770,500 from the general fund contingency to fully staff the station by paying existing employees overtime. The ongoing ex­pense would be $1.2 million in 2014-15.

In June, the council approved a $425,000 one-time expense to supple­ment the existing overtime. Those funds have nearly been spent, Shannon said.

After much debate, the council ap­proved a $509,655 contingency transfer to hire eight firefighters, including training costs, for the fire station. The ongoing expense will be $614,097 in 2014-15.

The motion was made by Councilman Dennis Robbins and seconded by Vice Mayor Suzanne Klapp, who said the “clock is ticking” and the Fire Depart­ment is racking up more overtime.

The new firefighters will be on the job in January after training, Shannon said.

Councilman Bob Littlefield cast the only no vote, saying the council should fund hiring 13 firefighters to fully staff the fire station.

As for police, the council in May agreed to earmark $2.5 million to give temporary pay raises or one-time bonus­es to police employees. The money has not been spent and Police Chief Alan Rodbell proposed what he described as a more long-term approach, estimated to raise the department’s budget by $1.8 million for 2013-14, and $3.5 million a year thereafter.

First, the proposal would have raised salaries, up to 5 percent, for all police employees hired before June 17. The move would be permanent, so employ­ees would continue to earn whatever sal­ary they make after the raise.

A second step would have raised sala­ries for about 130 police officers whose pay still falls below market average even after the 5 percent raise.
Mayor Jim Lane said it would be un­fair to other city employees, who re­ceived a 2 percent raise, for the council to give officers an additional 5 percent on top of that.

Littlefield made a motion to approve Rodbell’s request, but the council reject­ed it 4-3, with Lane and Council members Virginia Korte, Linda Milhaven and Den­nis Robbins voting no.

Korte then made a motion to instead authorize a $642,652 budget transfer to fix the “compression” or stagnating sala­ries for officers between five and 11 years of service with the department. The ongoing expense will be about $1.5 million in 2014-15.

“The council did a nice thing tonight by clearing up some of the inequities be­tween the years five and 11,” Rodbell said.

“For a while people have been stag­nating, so we found that gap and tonight the council closed that gap. Compensa­tion is an ongoing issue because you want to be competitive and you want to attract the very best people to the city of Scotts­dale,” Rodbell said. “And officers come in for a 25-year career and they want to proceed through the range of their pay scale.”

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