CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — City of Clarksville employees could soon see a 5% pay increase as the mayor looks for ways to retain employees, especially law enforcement.
City council members will vote on the measure for the first time Thursday night. If the ordinance passes its second reading, Mayor Joe Pitts said employees would see the pay increase sometime in December.
Pitts told News 2 he viewed the proposal as more of a market adjustment than a wage increase; the move is especially rare to see in the middle of a city’s fiscal year.
“We just gave a 4.5% general wage increase at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, but we needed to follow it up with an additional 5% because we were seeing resignations across all departments, but especially public safety, and specifically police,” Pitts explained.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) raised its starting salary to $65,000, one of the highest starting law enforcement wages in the state.
“We’re losing them to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which is paying good money and as I mentioned to the department heads, it’s an arms race we can’t win because the city coffers are limited, so we just have to improve culture in addition to the pay,” Pitts said.
THP’s new starting salary has attracted candidates from law enforcement agencies across the state that simply can’t compete with such high starting pay.
“All of my fellow mayors are experiencing the same thing; we’re seeing a crunch or a real crush in our public safety departments where Tennessee Highway Patrol and other private security companies are hiring our officers away after they get post certified, because they know they’re the best of the best,” Mayor Pitts said. “So we’re going to have to do something, and this 5% is just the beginning.”
Currently, the Clarksville Police Department has 24 officer vacancies. If the 5% increase is approved by city council, new recruit officers would make $48,401.85, based on the current starting pay on the City of Clarksville’s website. Pre-certified officers would receive a starting pay of $52,500.00.
Although those wages don’t quite match THP’s starting pay, Mayor Pitts pointed out the Clarksville Police Department is “Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies,” or CALEA certified, has been able to reduce crime in certain areas, and offers a new mental health wellness specialist for all officers and their families.
“We have a leadership structure that is second to none; we invest in our people in training; we look for people to promote so we don’t want you just to join the force, we want you to be promoted through the ranks,” Pitts said.
According to Pitts, there have been enough savings between city departments in this year’s budget to absorb the pay increases proposed, and taxes would not need to be raised.
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He encouraged candidates of all skillsets to explore city careers, emphasizing competitive pay to keep up with other companies and cost-of-living expenses. The proposed ordinance referenced 99 position vacancies within the City of Clarksville.
“It’s not just a job, it is a career, and we want the City of Clarksville to be the employer of first choice, and not last resort,” Pitts said.