Members of the Dade City Police Department are set to receive across-the-board salary increases, plus starting salary will be higher, too.
Those are just two of the provisions in a 56-page collective bargaining agreement between the City of Dade City and the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association (WCFPBA) on behalf of the local law enforcement agency.
The new three-year contract was approved unanimously at the Dade City Commission’s Oct. 13 meeting. The agreement runs through fiscal year 2022-2023.
The respective negotiations team for the city and police union met three times during the summer, and reached tentative agreement on all articles in early September.
The collective bargaining unit notified the city that its members had ratified the proposed contract during a vote later that month.
The most noteworthy changes are the increased officer salaries, as well as established pay steps. The new starting salary for a Dade City police officer is $40,000 — up from the previous starting salary of $37,000.
Meanwhile, a pay step plan implemented for sworn officers will create a 2% increase for every year of service between years one to 15, a 5% increase at year 20, and a 5% increase at year 25. This pay step plan eliminates a separate Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase and eliminates a separate longevity incentive.
Under the plan, all current officers will receive some sort of immediate pay increase — with most receiving up to 5%.
Officers and detectives requiring a greater increase to fit respective pay step will have the balance adjusted in equal installments in year two and year three, according to the agreement.
As an example, a rookie officer who was making $37,377.60 will see pay jump to $40,000 this fiscal year. In 2022-2023, that salary will be $41,616.
An 11-year veteran of the force making $43,992 will see pay jump to $46,191,60 this year; the salary will be $51,744.27 by 2022-2023.
To further put in perspective, here’s how an officer would be compensated based on years of service, under the plan:
- Rookie officer: $40,000
- One year service: $40,800
- Five years of service: $44,163.23
- 10 years of service: $48,759.78
- 15 years of service: $53,834.73
- 20 years of service: $56,526.47
- 25 years of service: $59,352.79
There also were other special payment provisions implemented in the contract, including a $100 footwear allowance for all officers each year.
Another clause of the contract compensates officers for a loss of personal items during a physical incident on duty, or due to the of hazardous materials.
Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez commended both city staffers and the police union for arriving at a workable agreement.
“I want to thank both sides,” Hernandez said. “I’m impressed at the amount of time, thought and deliberation, and action that ultimately we came to.”
The mayor, however, did acknowledge more work needs to be done in the future — alluding to greater officer pay and benefits in the future, as the city grows, develops and expands.
Even with the raises, the upgraded starting salary for a Dade City police officer still lags behind other agencies in Pasco County, where starting pay for police officers and deputies hovers around the mid-40s.
The nearby City of Zephyrhills, for instance, is actively advertising a starting salary of $44,500.
Hernandez put it this way: “You know, we have lots to do better on, we know that. But, I’m happy of where we are and we know there’s more to go, but I do believe we are moving in the right direction…”
Dade City Police Chief James Walters echoed the mayor’s sentiments regarding the agreement, overall.
“We appreciate the hard work for getting this done,” said Walters, a 25-year veteran of the agency who’s served as chief since 2018. “It is a great accomplishment for the employees and staff and officers, to be able to understand where they’re going to be at, and how they’re going to get there.”
The city’s police department has about 40 employees, including 23 sworn officers, civilian personnel and part-time staff.
Better pay deemed essential for retaining officers
The finalized contract comes at a point when the city is expected to need additional officers, as it continues to experience residential growth.
Walters advised commissioners during a budget meeting in August that additional staffing will be required to match the additional demands. At that time, he said: “In order to provide the services this community has come to expect and deserve, the police department must grow as well.
“We are already seeing a tremendous increase in our calls for service, and the more calls for service that we have with the same number of officers, the less time there is to spend on direct speeding enforcement, and community outreach and community-oriented policing.”
At the same meeting, WCFPBA president Nick Marolda underscored the importance of competitive pay for the city’s police force, noting the challenge the lower pay presents in both attracting and retaining officers.
“You’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars training these officers. They get great training, and then in about two years or three years, they look around and they see they’re the lowest (paid) in Pasco County, and they bail on you, and you lose all that money in training, and they go to another agency and you’ve got to start over again,” he said.
Published October 28, 2020
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