SCOTTSDALE, AZ – Concerns about Scottsdale’s competitiveness in the marketplace have ignited a debate over the pay and benefits of public-safety employees, who are leaving the city for other opportunities.
Rookie police officers in Scottsdale earn the lowest salary of all major cities in metro Phoenix, according to a compensation study comparing Scottsdale with similar Valley police departments.
“We don’t have a problem in our top pay. We do have a problem in our bottom pay in terms of being competitive in the marketplace,” Police Chief Alan Rodbell told the City Council last week.
Chet Anderson, past president of the Scottsdale Fraternal Order of Police, said at least one employee falls under the federal health and nutrition program for women, infants and children, commonly abbreviated WIC. “But it would not surprise me if there were more cops and certainly civilian employees,” he said.
Additionally, Scottsdale officers receive the fewest personal days, holidays and sick days, said Jim Nolan, Scottsdale Fraternal Order of Police president.
Scottsdale, which pays starting officers an average $49,878, is losing police personnel for better pay and benefits, department officials confirmed.
Last year, Scottsdale’s police force lost 26 experienced employees, Nolan said.
“We’ve seen people leaving in droves, and that’s going to continue,” said Jim Hill, president of the Police Officers of Scottsdale Association.
“What we’re seeing is we’re no longer competitive,” Hill said. “We’re not even in the top tier.”
Rodbell, who oversees a public-safety department of 924 full-time-equivalent positions, said police staffing has dipped.
Since 2009-10, the department has eliminated 63 positions, with plans to ax another 10 next fiscal year.
Among major Valley cities, Scottsdale ranked lowest in starting salary, second to Gilbert, which pays its rookie officers $50,544.
Since a peak in 2007-08, Scottsdale has spent less every year on police overtime, though the city projects a slight increase this fiscal year.
By dividing the police budget of each city by the number of sworn officers, Mayor Jim Lane said Scottsdale could gain a better comparison.
“We want to be competitive and we want to be properly served, and we don’t want to cut morale and the kinds of situations that developed because of the difficulties police officers and maybe even firefighters have had with the current situation,” Lane said.
Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky supported increasing the starting salary for new police officers, which “doesn’t necessarily increase the budget” if the city lowered the salaries of higher-paid police officials.
But Councilman Ron McCullagh said that adjusting salaries won’t make a difference if employees are retiring or leaving on their own volition.
He urged city officials to look “from the standpoint of the budget,” projected in 2012-13 to be $112.6 million for public safety, the biggest slice of the financial plan.
“I’m trying to figure out how to get this number from $112 million to $100 million,” McCullagh said. “We have other departments where we have cut staff. … The point is, how much public safety can the city afford? How much should they afford?”
From The Arizona Republic.