COLORADO SPRINGS – Colorado Springs City Council will soon take up the debate over Mayor John Suther’s proposed budget for next year. One notable change is the increase in spending at both the police and fire departments.
Compared to the 2017 budget, spending at the police department will grow by nearly 20 percent. Meanwhile, fire department spending will increase by more than 15 percent during that same time period.
Voters passed Ballot Question 2A during the April 2017 municipal, agreeing to pay stormwater fees on their monthly utility bills. That money freed up extra revenue from the general fund which allowed the mayor to increase spending in the police and fire departments.
“A lot of the budget is dealing with public safety,” Suthers said.
He added that he was thinking of his promise to voters when he put together this budget proposal.
“One of our commitments to the voters was to get 120 more police officers hired over the next couple of years,” Suthers said. “We added 20 this year, we still have 100 to go.”
The additional $9.5 million proposed for the police department next year will reportedly allow the department to hire 61 of those new officers. The extra $4.9 million going to the fire department will cover the salaries of 8 new firefighters.
In addition to growing the ranks, the 2019 budget also calls for pay raises across within the police and fire departments. Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Sullivan said the market for these jobs is going up.
“We will move salaries to the 52 percentile, to the mid-point of the market,” Sullivan said.
Salary schedules released with the budget show new recruits at the police and fire departments will $25.48 and $26.44 per hour respectively. Those entry level salaries are higher than the $24.06 per hour that the average worker in our community earns according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Battalion Chiefs working 56 hour weeks would be paid $40.79 per hour, or roughly the same as an average veterinarian according to the BLS data. Meanwhile, top police commanders will earn $63.33 per hour, or roughly the equivalent salaries of lawyers and aerospace engineers.
“Again, the effort is really to make sure that we’ve got the best and brightest, and that were able to not only hire them in the first place but also able to retain them,” Sullivan said.
He explained that the City of Colorado Springs competes with other Front Range communities to recruit and retain employees. His office measures the pay scales from those competing communities to calculate the going market rate.