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Falls looks to increase officer pay

NEWTON FALLS — The village police department is working with “a skeleton crew,” and officials are considering raising the hourly pay for officers to help attract applicants and retain those already on staff.

Council asked City Manager Pam Priddy to look at pay of officers in other communities and report her findings to council at the the next meeting.

The current pay rate of officers is between $16 and $17 per hour, plus a $200 uniform allowance.

Priddy said while two officers did retire, three others left the department for other jobs where they are being paid more.

She said the department has a full-time chief, three full-time officers, and 16 to 20 part-time officers.

Council recently placed a 4-mill, five-year police levy on the November ballot. The levy would generate $254,151 for day to day needs and operations, and cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $140 per year.

Mayor Ken Kline said there will be an increase for the rest of the year for officers regardless if the police levy passed on Nov. 8.

“We are not clear what we will be doing next year in 2023. We may hear from the township about forming a joint police department. We have to see what happens with the levy. What we do know is that we have great police officers who deserve to be paid a rate that is fair for the job they do for the size of our community,” Kline said.

Kline said it would be better for the department to have more full-time officers.

Third Ward Councilwoman Tesa Spletzer said the police department has been having problems filling all its shifts and some of the officers are having to work overtime to cover them.

“A lot of police departments are very short staffed,” she said.

Councilwoman-at-Large Julie Stimpert said the fire department also has faced challenges of having enough staff to fill shifts.

Priddy said she will prepare a chart with different hourly increases to provide to council for the Oct. 5 meeting before the exact hourly pay increase for officers is determined and passed by council.

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak said officers can make more money elsewhere. He said talks are being held to possibly host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the police department that will provide the public the opportunity to meet the police officers.

“We want to help our police department,” he said.

Council did pass an ordinance that if the police levy is passed, council will continue appropriating from the general fund money to support the department so the levy truly is supplemental and not a replacement for general fund money.

Finance Director Sean Housley said $236,211 in American Rescue Plan Act funds has been used for personnel costs in the police department.

He said if the levy is passed, that same amount will still be provided from the general fund to help the police department.

In other action, council approved seeking two new police cruisers covered by a loan agreement for the lease / purchase of the two vehicles.

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