A new retention and recruitment plan for the Myrtle Beach Police Department would mean pay raises for officers, but it could cause a tax increase for city residents.
During a city council meeting Tuesday morning, Police Chief Amy Prock and City Manager John Pedersen presented a plan that would implement an automatic 1.75 percent market increase for all sworn officers and dispatchers, plus a 3-percent merit increase, plus a market rate salary adjustment of 5-percent.
This means that new hires who are not certified would receive $40,000 starting salary, and new hires who are certified could start with a $44,000 salary.
Over the course of 10 years, staff could receive a 45-percent pay increase. The increase is broken down as:
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- Years two through four: 4 percent increase
- Year five: 3.75 percent increase
- Years six through seven: 3.5 percent increase
- Years eight through 10: 3 percent increase
However, in order to pay for the salaries and benefits, the city could increase taxes.
“That means that everyone’s city tax bill would go up by 3.8 percent for this change,” Pedersen said. “And we may or may not be able to absorb everything else that we do next year. But I don’t want to pretend that we’ll likely be able to absorb this. We’re going to be assuming that that tax increase is going to happen.”
Pedersen said that next year’s budget would be put together with the increase on property taxes.
The pay increases would begin during the first pay period in 2018, which is Jan. 12. The new City Council and mayor are expected to vote on the pay increase on Jan. 9.
“I really feel that the majority of the public realizes that there are so many incremental increase that the city can absorb,” Myrtle Beach Mayor-elect Brenda Bethune said. “But when it comes to our public safety we cannot afford not to fund it properly because the ramifications of not doing so could cost us so much more money.
“So, to me this is smart spending that is necessary and it puts us in line to be competitive with other agencies throughout the state and beyond and I think that we have to do this.”
Why is the plan being implemented?
In 2017, the department had 32 separations and six retirements.
“So the difference between those is 26,” Pedersen said. “We’re going to try and cut that number to 13.”
As the numbers stand now, the department needs to hire 19 officers each year just to break even. In October, Prock presented a plan that would hire 10 new officers over the course of seven years.
In order to break even and add new “boots on the ground,” the department needs to put 32 people through the academy each year.
“The other problem that we’re having is that we’re not terribly out of line at the entry level for the positions, but somehow or another our officers are behind the curve relative to their counterparts in other jurisdictions by the time they get to the sixth to the 10th year,” Pedersen said.
“So just by the time they really have got the experience that we need for them to have and they’re starting to look at promotional opportunities, there are other agencies out there gobbling them up,” he said.
In 2017, officers were lost to retirement, termination, other law enforcement agencies, personal reasons and failing out of training.
“Myrtle Beach is not on an island when it comes to this,” Councilor Mike Lowder said. “This is a national challenge here.”
The original plan calls for the new officers to be hired into various divisions of the department. The divisions include patrol, special operations for traffic and marine units, investigative division for crime scene units, a support services division that aims to support officers on the street, an administrative division, which consists of non-sworn in officers and a “power shift” team.
The “power shift” team, which will be created with existing officers by the end of this week, will work from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., when crime peaks in the city, according to police spokesman Capt. Joey Crosby.
The expansion of officers on the street also will allow the department to increase patrolling farther down Ocean Boulevard. Currently, police patrol areas between 21st Avenue North and 3rd Avenue South.
“This is not just a numbers game,” Pedersen said. “We’ve got great quality applicants. They always do really well through the justice academy and we just can’t afford to compromise that.”
City Council will vote on the resolution during the next meeting. A decision was not made during Tuesday’s meeting.
How do the pay raises compare to other agencies?
North Myrtle Beach:
- Uncertified officers - $41,096
- Certified officers - $42,329
- Uncertified officers - $35,126
- Certified officers - $36,882
- Uncertified officers - $37,816
- Certified officers - $41,693
- Uncertified officers - $34,072
- Certified officers - $34,072