Fees, tax among ideas for funding Minden police pay raises

Updated: Feb. 9, 2017 at 7:53 PM CST
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MINDEN, LA (KSLA) - A public safety fee of $3 to $5 on monthly utility bills, an alcohol tax and charging for responding to repeat false alarms.

Those are among ideas being discussed to help fund pay raises for Minden police officers.

Minden Police Chief Steve Cropper says his officers need more pay.

That's the message he and his officers today again took to the Webster Parish city's mayor and City Council members.

Cropper said he's lost 38 officers since 2011, including four at Christmas. "We've actually lost 25 full-time police officers and actually 13 part-time dispatchers."

The majority of them aren't going far.

Eighty percent of those who have left went to other area police departments after getting two years of experience in Minden, the police chief said.

As a result of the reduced manpower, Cropper told City Council members, his department's response times have gone from 1-3 minutes to 5-10 minutes and his officers are spread thin.

"Funerals, I don't have the manpower to do funerals."

City officials also noted that it costs Minden $4,000 to train a new officer.

The concern is that Minden's officers will continue to leave if they don't receive a pay raise soon.

So just how much money is needed for the Police Department to keep its officers?

Cropper said he and his officers came up with proposals for funding.

They delivered the bottom line during a public workshop Thursday morning.

Proposals were tossed back and forth between officers and city leaders.

It's not just losing officers, Cropper said, the pay rate also is impacting recruiting efforts.

"I have no applications of people wanting to come here and work."

The bottom line, Cropper said, is his certified officers need hundreds of dollars more a month.

"At least a $300-a-month raise would help them tremendously. Even at that rate, it's still not competitive."

But as they've said before, City Council members again told the officers there isn't any more money in the budget.

"Guys, you don't think we lay awake in bed at night wondering when our police are going to start leaving? We do care!" District D Councilman Mike Toland said. "But we have to figure out how to pay the bills."

Police Department officials estimate it would cost the city $210,989 a year to give a $400 raise to 33 officers.

One option discussed to raise that money is turning to utility customers in the form of a $3 to $5 public safety fee added to their bills.

Other avenues of raising the funds were discussed as well.

Officers proposed that the city impose a sales tax on alcoholic beverages and that the Police Department charge for its responses to repeat false alarms.

"Some businesses have repeat calls. I'm talking three to four a week of false alarm calls," police Sgt. Joel Kendrick told council members. "Third violation? $25 fine. Fourth violation? $25 fine."

Kendrick also said more money could come back to the Police Department if city prosecutors and attorneys were less lenient in the courtroom.

"They know they can wheel and deal with that guy and talk their way out of it and get anger management and pay $200 and they're done when the city should be owed some money for that officer spending the time to go out and investigate that crime."

Cropper also proposed a way to save money.

The Police Department pays to furnish street crossing guards. Officers believe they could save those costs if they were absorbed by Webster School District.

Before any additional tax or fee is approved, Minden Mayor Tommy Walker told KSLA News 12 they want to bring it before the people first.

"We're not necessarily opposed to that, but that's something we don't want to impose on the public. We would ask the public for their input on that and, perhaps, even a vote on it."

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