Horry County police officials talk about 2018 crime numbers
Horry County public safety employees initially earn competitive wages when they join the department but quickly fall behind as they advance, according to a study presented to County Council.
And they’re not the most underpaid in county government.
Horry County Council commissioned the study at a February meeting, and it was presented at the Spring Budget Retreat last week. It was compiled by Evergreen Solutions, a government consulting firm.
The study looked at 22 government entities to see how Horry County wages compare, with a focus on public safety employees. Some of the sample cities were Charleston, North Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Lexington County. Assistant Horry County Administrator Justin Powell said Myrtle Beach did not respond to the survey.
For Council Members Cam Crawford and Dennis DiSabato, Myrtle Beach is one of the main competitors for Horry County public safety employees. Powell said Myrtle Beach chose to be ahead of market.
Horry County pays private first class officers $39,216, according to a document to council. Myrtle Beach pays $46,000.
Both council members said the goal is not to necessarily match Myrtle Beach dollar for dollar, but to give Horry officers more of a reason to stay in Horry County.
“I think we’re just in a real competitive disadvantage,” Crawford said.
Powell said Council needs to decide where they want to fall within this study. The options are to be behind market, at market or ahead of market on how it pays its employees. He said while each has “strategic advantages,” being ahead of market will require a lot more revenue — probably coming from a tax increase.
DiSabato and Crawford spoke in turn saying it wasn’t just about pay, it was about rewarding tenure within the organization. While Horry County public safety pay is above average when an officer joins the force, it drops below average as they advance.
“You have officers who been on the job for eight or nine years, who are only making few thousand dollars more than a Class 1 officer,” DiSabato said.
“Exactly, our system does not adequately take into account longevity and grade,” Crawford added.
Currently public safety officers get a merit-based raise based off yearly performance.
Council Member Danny Hardee said there is more to keeping employees than just pay. DiSabato agreed, adding many public safety employee benefits were cut at the start of the financial crisis in 2007.
Administrator Chris Eldridge said infrastructure and regulation employees are amongst the most underpaid, according to the study’s results. From the start of their careers to the end, Horry County non-public safety employees are underpaid by a larger margin than public safety, according to the study.
“I would hate for those employees to be lost in the shuffle,” Eldridge said.
An earlier discussion at the retreat showed that departments within infrastructure and regulations had some of the highest turnovers and lowest pay compared to market.
The study and the issue will be brought back up an upcoming meeting of the public safety committee, of which Hardee is the chairman.
“There are a lot of issues we’re going to look at,” Hardee said.