Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen presented City Council with a market rate adjustment pay plan for certified police positions during Tuesday’s City Council workshop. The plan addresses the dual needs of recruitment and retention for police personnel by bringing police compensation in line with – and ultimately ahead of – the city’s competing law enforcement agencies.
“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. “This market rate adjustment will allow us to boost our retention of current officers and recruit new officers more effectively.”
The City of Myrtle Beach has historically compared its compensation with similar governments, both locally and in the tourism industry, every few years. Such a comparison this fall shows that Myrtle Beach police salaries have not kept pace with our counterparts.
“We’ve fallen behind significantly, and this adjustment not only lets us catch up with the competition, but gives our officers an incentive to make Myrtle Beach their career department,” Pedersen said. The new step plan for sworn police gradually will provide market adjustments in coming years to maintain and increase the city’s competitiveness.
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. This market rate adjustment begins with the January 12 pay period. At that time, all city staff will receive a 1.75 percent salary adjustment and be eligible for merit increases of up to five percent, based on performance. Under the new step plan, the Police Department’s certified staff also will receive the 1.75 percent adjustment, plus a 3 percent merit increase (an average of what the rest of the staff receives), plus a market rate salary adjustment of 5 percent.
This market rate salary adjustment will be effective only for sworn police officers, detention officers and telecommunications officers, but not the department’s other administrative and non-sworn staff. In addition to the step plan, starting police salaries also will increase as part of the market rate adjustment. Effective January 12, 2018, uncertified officers will begin at $40,000, certified officers will earn $44,000 upon graduation from the SC Criminal Justice Academy, and the first class officers’ beginning salary will climb to $46,000.
The Myrtle Beach City Council has indicated support for the market rate adjustment as part of its larger plan to expand the police department by 10 additional staff members per year, during the next seven years. Existing revenues will cover the increased cost in this year’s budget, but the step plan will require a three-mill tax increase in the 2018-19 fiscal year budget, which begins in July.
Beyond the 2018-19 fiscal year, the new police step plan calls for annual increases ranging from 3.0 to 4.0 percent to maintain competitiveness and help with recruiting. Finding qualified police officers is a challenge locally and nationally. By offering a competitive wage through such an extended step plan, newly hired officers – along with existing ones – will have an incentive to choose Myrtle Beach over other departments.
Retention of police officers in that six-to-10-year window is the biggest challenge. Other law enforcement agencies use a defined step plan for police compensation to provide predictable salary growth. “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 goal of the market rate salary adjustment is to retain existing officers (cutting attrition in half) and recruit more police officers to fill new and existing vacancies. The long-range effect is that 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. This brings our certified officers’ salaries in line with (or ahead of) similar law enforcement agencies.