Swanton Village Council Agrees to Pay Raises to Boost SPD Officer Recruitment and Retention

Concerned with the high rate of turnover within the Swanton Police Department (SPD) in the past several years, the Swanton Village Council made several moves at their September 27th meeting to improve the overall recruitment and retention rate including voting for a pay raise, establishing an Employee Compensation Schedule and placing a levy on the ballot to help fund the SPD.

The SPD compensation issue was explained in Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle’s Report stating, “Recruiting and retaining employees is crucial for any organization, the public sector is no different.  The Village of Swanton supports its public servants, and in this particular case, its police officers as best it can.  In 2017 there was an analysis of the SFRD wages, it is now time to do the same for the SPD.  The main point is providing our employees with the knowledge of what their compensation will be (barring any unforeseen issues such as a global pandemic) over the next few years.  We also would like to ensure we are staying competitive, relatively speaking, to recruit and retain good officers.”

Council voted unanimously for Emergency Ordinance 2021-XX, Establishing Swanton Village Employee Compensation Schedule for Swanton Police Division 2022-2025.  The pay raises will go into effect on November 28, 2021 and will range from $1.50 to $2.00 per hour based on years of experience.  There will then be incremental raises for the next four years ranging from 0.50% to 3.00% with the 4-6 and 7-9 years of experience groups heavily weighted  Finance Director Jennifer Harkey informed Council the initial raises would cost the Village just over an estimated $100,000 and another $30,000 after that.

Prior to the vote there was discussion on where the funds would come from and what effect is would have on the General Fund.  “It will be supported by the income tax right now,” said Ms. Harkey.  “As we forecast out over the next five years, we will be able to absorb it by our income tax as it stands right now.  Part of what is covering the $100,000 is what we are able to offset police wages with the COVID funds from last year.  That was about $54,000 that did not burden the General Fund.”

Ms. Hoelzle interjected with a clarification on the wording of the ordinance as it pertained to available funding.  “The way the ordinance reads, though, it states that ‘The annual wage increase will take effect only if appropriations are available.’  This is a difficult conversation to have when you have a high turnover.  Yes, of course it’s going to impact our General Fund, 100% it’s going to impact our General Fund.”

Police Chief Adam Berg quickly responded to Ms. Hoelzle’s comment.    “You can’t give a raise and then take it away because things aren’t appropriated properly,” he cautioned.  “That will cause way more harm than anything that this (pay raises) will cause good.”

Councilman Craig Rose said he supported the raises but questioned whether it would be enough to remain competitive with other communities.  “Even if we pass this, we still have work to do,” he said.  Chief Berg replied it would definitely help in recruiting.

“We’re closer to what Whitehouse is paying and we’re not too far off from what their income tax collection is based on the other entities that replied,” said Ms. Harkey relating information she received from a survey she sent out this past Spring.  She also said, and Ms. Hoelzle agreed, it would be “prudent” to present the compensation schedule before Council every year and weigh it against current financial conditions.

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