City issues raises for all MPD officers to help address police shortage, base pay now at $40,000 per year : KZHE News Blog
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City issues raises for all MPD officers to help address police shortage, base pay now at $40,000 per year

by J.D. Bailey on 12/28/21

The City of Magnolia needs more police officers. And the 2022 Magnolia municipal budget hopes to address the issue.

On Monday, the Magnolia City Council unanimously passed a balanced spending budget for next year. The multi-million dollar budget measure included annual raises of $1,000 for all Magnolia Police Department officers. The pay increase, according to Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann, hopes to attract new officers to join the force, as well as help entice current law enforcement members to stay on with the agency.

“We’re short a few police officers,” he said. “We could always use a few more.”

To help address the shortage, base pay for a Magnolia Police Department patrol officer is now $40,000 per year. Two years ago, the figure was $38,000.

Including Chief Todd Dew, the $1,027,900 Magnolia Police salary budget for 2022, includes 22 full-time officers, two part-time officers, two office workers, and two school resource officers. The latter of which, however, is not budgeted to be paid for by the city next year.

To help entice new officer sign-ups, the city recently embarked on a regional job outreach effort that includes relocation benefits such as no-costs for moving and housing.

“We’ll move you, we’ll pay you, we’ll house, and, if you qualify, we’ll give you a take-home car,” said Vann. “It’s first-come, first-serve, and we have ads out all over the state and in other states. It’s a legitimate offer.”

Currently, the most desperate officer needs are for female police. The mayor noted that male officers cannot search female suspects and that it is always a good practice to have female officers present when transporting female arrestees. MPD currently staffs only two female officers, according to the mayor.

“There are just as many bad women out there now as there are bad men,” Vann added. “You’ve got to have female officers.”

Magnolia lost one female officer recently to the Southern Arkansas University police force. The departure was the first one “in a while,” according to the mayor.

At $40,000 annually, plus a police pension, the local patrol officer job pays significantly more than it did previously. Just eight years ago, in 2013, starting pay for an MPD patrol officer was barely above $29,000. In 2017, the starting pay rate was around $35,000.

When asked if employing fewer officers at higher per-capita pay could be a solution to the city’s shortage, the mayor stated that the idea is reasonable, but, in the end, a police department needs numbers more than anything -- especially today.

“I used to be opposed to three units going to one call, but that’s not enough anymore,” he said. “When a handful of officers arrive on a scene and the whole neighborhood is out asking them why they are there, you need more people. Somebody called us, so we need to be there.”

Ideally, the mayor said he would like to see five units per night on patrol throughout the city. Although crime has not risen drastically in Magnolia as it has over the last two years in some metropolitan areas across the U.S., there are still plenty of police calls to attend to on a daily basis.

“The thing is, it’s the same people we’re arresting over and over and over,” Vann added.

All local emergency services, however, are not short-handed right now. In fact, the Magnolia Fire Department, according to the mayor, has actively certified five to six staff members as EMTs since the agency took over countywide accident rescue services late last year. MFD, which also added $1,000 per year in salary to all of its firefighters in the 2022 budget, responds to multiple accidents every month in its new rescue truck that just arrived in the summer, after almost a year of waiting.

In total, the Magnolia Fire Department employs 13 full-time firemen. Base pay for a firefighter, according to the 2022 budget, is $33,800 (up from $32,800 in 2021). The total salary budget for MFD next year is $616,700.

City workers were mostly also approved for $500 raises next year, but some employees could receive less.

The mayor, who has an annual salary of $70,000, according to the 2022 budget, is not set to receive a raise over his 2021 pay. The city treasurer is not set for an increase, either. Other ranking officials in the city government, including the city building inspector and city attorney, are set to receive $500 per year increases in 2022, according to the budget.

In all, the city is expected to generate $4.775 million in revenues next year for its General Fund. The figure is down slightly from 2021 ($4.862 million), due mainly to the elimination of the city’s 1 mill millage, which accounted for $200,000 last year.

Even with the slight decrease, the city should still be in good shape financially, according to the mayor.

“We were able to cut property taxes and add raises for our workers, and still be OK,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

2022 budget revenue items of interest include the following:

    • City Sales Tax - $2,125,000 ($2,000,000 in 2021)
    • Economic Development - $710,000 ($660,000 in 2021)
    • Franchise Fees - $644,400 ($635,000 in 2021)
    • County Sales Tax - $325,000 ($300,000 in 2021)
    • State Turnback - $180,000 ($190,000 in 2021)
    • General Fines - $125,000 ($110,000 in 2021)
    • Beverage Tax - $25,000 ($15,000 in 2021)

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