City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen speaks during Tuesday’s Public Safety meeting at city hall. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
City Manager Ray Mondragon told members of the Public Safety Committee that city officials are working on a plan to increase police pay, one he hopes will go before the city commission by Nov. 4 for approval.
Although specifics of the new payment plan haven’t been ironed out, Mondragon said Tuesday the plan will be comparable to other police agencies in the state.
Currently, the Clovis Police Department ranks on the low end — especially for the salaries of lieutenants, captains and sergeants — of 12 departments studied throughout the state, according to figures gathered by city officials.
The Clovis Police Department’s minimum salary for sergeants is roughly $14,000 less than the average minimum salaries for sergeants within the 12 departments listed, which include departments in Roswell, Hobbs and Carlsbad.
“Their base salary has to be competitive with the rest of the state,” Police Chief Bill Carey said. “Officers can go anywhere in the state — and in Texas, Colorado and Arizona — and go to work right away.”
Carey said his department is down 13 officers and the applicant pool has been limited.
He said he received a call from a police officer in Bernalillo County with three years experience who wants to move to this area.
Carey said he told the man the department pays a minimum of $13.35 an hour; the man says he’s making $20 an hour and it would be tough to take that type of pay cut to come to Clovis.
But committee member and City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen asked Carey why the department would hire an officer with three years experience at starting wages.
Carey didn’t respond directly to the question but said a new salary plan will hopefully eliminate the problem.
Committee chair Kevin Duncan said he would like to see a salary structure plan ironed out quickly.
“We’re here to do whatever it takes to get this resolved. We’re on the right track. We just need to be aggressive in getting this implemented,” he said.
The money to fund the salary increases will likely come from the city’s general fund and possibly from some of the worker’s compensation fund, Duncan said.
For now, Duncan said the commission will probably not have to increase taxes to fund the salary increases, but that may be an option if the problem continues in the future.