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Hagerstown City Council explores pay hike for cops

February 10, 2001|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown City Council explores pay hike for cops



A majority of Hagerstown City Council members support an increase to the starting salary for city police officers and a new pay scale to increase the pay for other officers.

Some council members said the pay increases would fix potential and existing hiring and retention problems for the department.

During a closed-door council meeting last Tuesday, the council asked City Police Chief Arthur Smith to come up with a new pay scale for police officers. Smith is expected to present his recommendations to the council March 6.

Wayne Hose, president of the police officers' union, said the pay scale is the last major issue being negotiated between the city and the union. Hose, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3373, which represents 77 city police officers, said increases to the pay scale could lead to a signed contract.

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Police ranked sergeant and above are not in the union.

The union's last contract expired June 30, 2000. The officers are working under the terms of that contract until a new contract is signed.

The starting pay for Hagerstown police officers is $25,354 annually.

A survey of some surrounding jurisdictions published by the union in October showed that the starting annual salaries for police were about $30,000 in Chambersburg, Pa., about $27,500 in Cumberland, Md., about $32,300 in Frederick, Md., $27,770 for Washington County Sheriff's deputies and $24,500 in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Hose said that in negotiations, his union has been offering a revised pay scale that would put the starting salary at about $27,500 a year and increase the base pay for other officers. He said the pay increases proposed by the union would cost the city an additional $60,000 a year.

Council members would not say how much police officers should be paid or discuss details of a new pay scale. They said they were waiting for Smith's recommendations.

Smith said Friday that "at this point I'm still formulating a new pay scale.

"Hirings have become a little difficult lately. Our starting pay has fallen a little behind," he said.

Smith said his department has enough new hires now, but may have to hire another five to seven police officers this year.

He said retention of officers is "a concern to me now.

"It hasn't been a problem to a large extent yet. ... I want to make sure it doesn't happen."

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said, "All indications are that when compared to other departments, we are at the low end of the scale."

"I understand there's been no drain immediately," said Councilman William M. Breichner. "But it's obvious we want to keep our police competitive with others in the area."

Boyer, Breichner and Councilmen J. Wallace McClure and Lewis C. Metzner said they support increasing starting salaries for city police officers and revising the pay scale.

Breichner said it is unclear how many existing police officers will get raises as a result of a new pay scale.

"Naturally if you bump up the 1 (pay level) you have to make adjustments. ... But it's unclear how it will affect all existing officers," Breichner said.

When asked if she supports higher starting salaries for police officers, Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she would have to wait until she saw Smith's recommendations.

McClure said Smith has "been so honest and forthright" with what he needs that McClure expects the council will support his recommendations.

"I look for it to be unanimous support," McClure said.

Metzner said he expects to support Smith's recommendations.

Any increase to the pay scale has not been included in recent budget projections for the city's fiscal year beginning July 1.

During a recent budget retreat, the mayor and council were told of a projected $647,000 deficit in the city's $23.8 million general fund for the next fiscal year. That figure prompted Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II to say a tax increase is likely for the coming year.

Metzner said, "I'd be surprised if a tax increase is not needed."

McClure said if higher salaries for police officers lead to higher taxes, that would be OK because public safety is a good reason to raise taxes.

"These are things the government has to provide," he said.

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