HUNTERSVILLE – As expected, dollars were discussed at a town board budget workshop on May 14, but policy – particularly in terms of police officer pay – became the prominent topic.
During his presentation, Huntersville Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said the 4 percent pay increase for all town employees proposed in Interim Town Manager Jackie Huffman’s budget package would help efforts to recruit and retain officers. But Spruill said addressing “anomalies” in pay structure within his department – which in one case he referenced has a sergeant earning $18,000 less than a patrol officer he supervises – and creating a firm and clear pay-scale ladder officers can depend on would be more valuable adjustments.
Spruill, who reported six officers have left his department for higher-paying law enforcement positions since July 2017, said the 4 percent raise would not solve the problem of officers lured away by higher salaries. But, citing pay scale comparisons between the Huntersville and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) departments, he also acknowledged matching CMPD salaries was not a realistic goal.
But addressing discrepancies in current compensation, Spruill said, and establishing defined career path salary categories would be significant changes to boost morale and job satisfaction.
During the discussion that followed, commissioners and Mayor John Aneralla made several suggestions, including financing one-time officer bonuses using payroll funds available because some town positions are vacant, and adoption of a salary “step plan” for officers. Commissioners also endorsed the idea of Spruill meeting with Huffman and incoming Town Manager Anthony Roberts to discuss the particulars of a new approach.
Roberts begins duties in Huntersville June 5, when Huffman will return to roles as assistant town manager and finance director. Roberts was in attendance at the workshop and said he thinks an individualized evaluation of the police department would be the proper approach, and a report on those findings could be available by the end of August.
He said the board could continue budget preparations (the new fiscal year starts July 1) and then consider amendments after the budget is in place.