Today: Jun 02 , 2020

Will Providing Raises Affect City Safety?

27 March 2016   Lynne LaMaster

The City of Prescott has a lot of job vacancies. But some of them may never be filled.

According to the most recent Council Briefing, the City of Prescott has 5 vacancies in the Police Department, with one additional resignation expected. The Fire Department, which has been subjected lately to rolling brownouts and blackouts, has 3 vacant funded positions with 3 expected retirements expected in FY 2017. That’s not including the 2 vacant frozen (unfunded) positions for the Police and the 3 vacant frozen (unfunded) positions in the Fire Department.

When will these positions be filled? With the exception of 2 vacant police positions, none of them will be filled until it is known whether or not they will be funded in the FY 2017 budget.

Here’s how it looks right now:

Police Department:

5 vacant funded positions

2 vacant frozen (unfunded positions)

1 additional resignation expected

Total: 8 vacancies

To be filled soon: 2 vacant funded positions

That leaves six unfilled vacancies in the Police Department

Fire Department:

3 vacant funded positions

3 vacant frozen (unfunded) positions

3 retirements expected in FY 2017

Total: 9 vacancies

To be filled soon: 0

Why wait so long to fill the vacancies?

Part of the issue is the proposed Market Compensation package. What’s that? In a word, pay raises.

Recently, Prescott, which has been experiencing higher than normal turnover amongst the personnel that work for the City, did a Wage and Market Comensation study, which recommended an increase in pay for the staff, in order to be competitive with other communities. Turnover is costly, and City Manager Craig McConnell believes that in order to retain the staff, who have not received raises in years, they must increase their pay.

“If we’re going to implement market compensation, that money has to be found somewhere within the fund or funds that support a department,” McConnell explains.

Departments have been told they need to find the money within their current departments’ budgets, “…for the initial discussion,” McConnell stated. “In the [strategic planning] schedule, you’ll see where on April 21-29, we meet with each of those departments, they bring that information forward, and then thereafter, it gets put together within a General Fund budget recommendation. So, until that process happens, we don’t know how or where that money is going to come from. And then, when it goes to the City Council for budget workshops, there will be discussion of whether ‘Department A’ can suffer absorbing that additional expense, which is related to the services and the services provided, and that may or may not be acceptable, which means that it is an interim process of readjusting if the impact on the department is not considered acceptable."

That uncertainty means that the Police and Fire Chiefs are hesitant to fill the vacant positions in their departments in case they have to reduce staffing in order to provide the recommended Market Compensation pay increases. It’s been dubbed, “layoffs for raises,” but in this case, it may end up being “attrition for raises.”

For example, the Fire Department has been told it would have to find approximately $650K for the recommended raises. According to Chief Light in a recent council meeting, there is not enough money within the current budget to pay for raises. Light presented the stark truth that if the fire department has to resort to layoffs, it will necessitate closing a station and continued brownouts.

"Reduction of approximately 6 personnel, and continued freeze of 3 vacancies, would necessitate full closure of one of the five operating locations,” Light stated, adding that, “Future reduction in personnel could make the City ‘less-safe’.”

Other job openings

In addition to the fire and police vacancies, the City has other full-time jobs it needs to fill:

  • Environmental Coordinator
  • Solid Waste Superintendent
  • Deputy City Clerk
  • Accounting Clerk - Tax
  • Civil Paralegal/Legal Administrator
  • Communication Specialist Trainee (Dispatch)
  • Equipment Mechanic - Fleet Services
  • Equipment Operator - Streets
  • Manitenance Worker - Solid Waste
  • Permit Technician/Plans Examiner

Part-time, temporary or seasonal jobs:

  • Game Official(s) part time, temporary
  • Scorekeeper - part time, temporary
  • Seasonal Parks Maintenance Worker
  • Site Supervisor - part time, temporary