Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Elon town mgr. gives police raises to stem exodus in continuing municipal war for law enforcement officers


Less than two weeks after the city of Burlington detonated a truly monstrous package of police pay raises, the town of Elon has fired back with its own somewhat more modest increase in police officer compensation.

During a regularly-scheduled town council meeting on Monday, Elon’s town manager Rich Roedner announced that he had taken the initiative to boost the salaries of many of the town’s officers in order to stave off defections to other, better-heeled jurisdictions.

“Where we had been one of the highest paid police departments five or six years ago, we’re now one of the lowest,” Roedner said as he explained the reasons for this administrative-level decision that evening. “We don’t have to be at the top of the heap,” he added. “But we need to be competitive.”

Roedner went on to note that he used revenue from the police department’s lapsed salaries to cover the cost of these raises for the remainder of this fiscal year. He added, however, that these increases may not be enough, in themselves, to stabilize the police department’s turnover, and he suggested a more formal pay study to determine what other measures should be pursued.

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In a subsequent interview with The Alamance News, the town manager acknowledged that the department’s surplus payroll funds provided him with over $20,000 to give each officer with a rank of sergeant or lower a $4,000 bump in his or her annual wages. Roedner also conceded that this move came in response to the rather hefty pay raises that police officers have received in other, nearby communities like Burlington and Mebane.

Burlington, in particular, has considerably raised the ante for local law enforcement agencies with the recent decision of its city council to raise the base pay of an entry-level police officer from $46,500 to $55,411 a year – and to give those with “satisfactory” job performance two additional 2-percent raises per annum. Burlington’s city council unanimously adopted these raises on November 15 despite their overall cost, which is expected to reach $2.1 million a year – or the equivalent of about 4 cents on the city’s property tax rate.

Roedner confessed that a small town like Elon can’t realistically expect to compete – dollar for dollar – with larger municipalities that have this sort of financial clout. The town manager noted that, in the past, Elon has still managed to attract and retain enough high-caliber officers thanks to its friendlier, more close-knit institutional culture. He nevertheless added that this non-pecuniary advantage loses some of its sheen when the average salary on Elon’s police force is roughly $6,000 less than at other competing agencies.

“I think we have a pretty good culture here,” he declared. “But for $6,000 [more], they might decide culture isn’t all that important.”

Read the newspaper’s editorial page views on the town manager’s actions:

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