Myrtle Beach plans to raise taxes to increase police officer pay

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The City of Myrtle Beach says it has a plan to recruit and keep qualified police officers, but it will require a tax increase.

Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen presented an immediate and long-term plan to increase the salaries of police officers in Myrtle Beach during the city council meeting Tuesday. Pedersen says the city faces two main problems: recruitment and retention of police personnel.

“With the climate nationally for police officer retention and recruitment and the demand locally to fill new and vacant police positions, we must be competitive in the marketplace,” Pedersen said.

That competitiveness will cost city residents, according to the presentation delivered by Pedersen.

The city plans to implement a step pay plan similar to those used by neighboring police departments, according to a study completed by city officials.

“The step pay plan boosts current officers’ salaries by a few percentage points each year to compensate for increased workloads and provide an incentive to remain with the department past the critical five-year period,” according to a press release distributed by Myrtle Beach City Spokesperson Mark Kruea.

The pay increase will go into effect with the January 12 pay period. Officials say all city staff will receive a 1.75 percent salary increase, and will then be eligible for an additional pay hike, up to five percent, based on performance. The police department employees will follow that same 1.75 percent increase, plus a 3 percent merit increase, which is an average of what other city staff receives, officials say. With the step pay plan, officers then receive a third pay raise, noted as a “market rate salary adjustment” of five percent.

The additional five percent raise is only available to sworn police officers, detention officers, and telecommunication officers. The police department’s administrative and non-sworn staff are not eligible for the market rate hike.

In addition, the city plans to increase the starting salary for incoming officers. Effective January 12, uncertified officers will begin at $40,000, an increase from $36,245. Certified officers will earn $44,000 upon graduation from the SC Criminal Justice Academy, which is a hike from $39,706. The first class officers’ beginning salary will climb to $46,000.

Pedersen says the salary increase cost will ultimately fall on city residents.

In his presentation Tuesday morning, Pedersen noted on the slideshow that the city expects a three-mill tax increase, which means city residents’ tax bill will increase by 3.8 percent. Pedersen says the city’s budget for 2018-2019 will include the tax hike.

Pedersen says it is necessary for city residents to pay more taxes because the police department is severely challenged in keeping officers beyond five years.

“We’ve lost experienced officers to other departments due to our lower salary in that mid-career time frame,” Pedersen said.  “The step plan not only brings our compensation in line with other agencies, but it lets officers know what they can expect.”

The city’s goal with increasing officer salaries is to cut the turnover rate in half and recruit more officers to fill current and future vacancies. Certified officers who remain with the Myrtle Beach Police Department can expect a minimum salary increase of 45 percent by the end of the step plan’s 10 years, the press release states.

Categories: News, SC

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