Mayor breaks tie in favor of establishing pay matrix for Sunset Hills officers

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By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

Patrol officers and sergeants will get a pay raise beginning next month after a tie was broken in favor of establishing a pay matrix for the Sunset Hills Police Department.

Mayor Pat Fribis broke a 4-4 tie in favor of the pay matrix with pre-determined raises over time, or “steps,” at the June 8 Board of Aldermen meeting.

Board President Ann McMunn, Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong, Ward 3 Alderman Cathy Friedmann and Ward 4 Alderman Fred Daues voted against the measure, while Ward 1 Alderman Joe Stewart, Ward 2 Alderman Christine Lieber, Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson and Ward 4 Alderman Thompson Price voted in favor.

Sunset Hills Police Chief Stephen Dodge first suggested the raises in May, citing the need for the department to offer more competitive salaries to retain his officers and sergeants.

Current entry-level salaries for officers fall between $55,000-$56,000 and top out at $73,000; under the approved matrix, the compensation schedule for patrol officers will start at $59,208 and top out at $77,253 after 10 steps. Sergeants will start at $70,821 and max out at $92,405.

All patrol officers and sergeants will move up to their eligible step starting July 1. From there, officers and sergeants will move to the next step Jan. 1 of each year. The steps each year represent a 3-percent raise.

New hires are not eligible for a step increase for at least six months.

At the bill’s second reading June 8, Wong questioned if it would be wise to hold off on approving the pay matrix until July, following a budget workshop the board held June 22.

“I think we might want to pause on this and seek a little bit more information. We have the financial tutorial … that’s going to explain everything. It seems a little premature to be voting on some pretty significant pay issues in the absence of more complete information,” said Wong.

Daues asked if it would be possible to retroactively establish the pay matrix if aldermen decided to table the proposal for an additional few weeks until after the budget workshop. City Administrator Brittany Gillett agreed that was possible.

But Epperson, who sits on the Police Advisory Board, disagreed about delaying a decision.

“I don’t feel that that additional information (from the workshop) is going to change this specific item that we’re voting on or getting ready to vote on,” said Epperson. “It’s not going to change when we get additional information on some micro details of the budget. … Having to do retroactive pay is an additional burden.”

Breaking the tie in favor of the pay matrix, Fribis said that it would be “advantageous” for the city.

“This has been discussed for quite awhile, and I think it would be advantageous for our police force and for our city,” said Fribis. “I think this is something necessary for our city to ensure our safety and our well-being.”