Mayor Javier Gonzales wants the city to find a way to bump salaries across the board rather than focusing strictly on a proposal from the police chief on law enforcement pay hikes.
"There’s just been too many years that we couldn’t provide pay increases for our own employees,” Gonzales said. “I’m not just talking about police. I’m talking about fire and park. My request of the council would be to provide a pool of money that could be used to address this issue."
Gonzales’ admonition to city staff came as the Santa Fe City Council discussed adjustments to the police department pay scale aimed at preventing officers from jumping ship to other forces. City Council last year asked the city manager and Finance Committee to work with police officials to make Santa Fe’s police department more competitive and this report was the result. It's not clear what the next step will be.
Last fall, Albuquerque sweetened the incentive package for officers who join the city’s police department from elsewhere, including an $8,000 signing bonus and starting salary of $28 an hour. Newly recruited Albuquerque cadets receive a $5,000 bonus.
Santa Fe cadets don’t receive signing bonuses and make a starting salary of $19.11, with pay increases with each promotion up to $27.14.
One potential fix presented by Police Chief Patrick Gallagher would reduce the time it takes for a cadet to reach the highest pay tier, from seven years to four years. Other options would be to increase the max and starting salary rates to $28 and $21, respectively; reduce officers’ contribution to the city’s retirement fund; and implement a flat dollar increase for all officers and sergeants.
Any changes would have a significant impact on the city’s budget, which is already facing constraints to cover the roughly 1,600 employees and vast array of services they provide.
Santa Fe Police union president Troy Baker says he agrees with the mayor’s assessment that the talks on officer pay have been too narrow. Baker, who represents non-officer staff alongside cops, says, “We can’t just do this knee-jerk response of focusing on officers. We have to address everyone.”
The union and police department will undergo another round of negotiations on Tuesday, but Baker doesn’t expect much progress from the talks. He says, “Without direction from the council, we’re at the same place were were last time: Nowhere."