Dewey Beach commissioners voted unanimously to increase wages for seasonal, full-time and part-time police officers at a July 29 special meeting.
Town Manager Scott Koenig recommended increasing seasonal officer wages from $11.25 or $11.50 an hour to $13.45 or $13.70 an hour. Seasonal officers receive a $.25 increase each year they return.
With approximately 4,850 hours left in the summer season, Koenig said the increase would cost the town a little over $12,000 if implemented soon.
Commissioners Dale Cooke and Gary Persinger said with about one month left in the season, the increase could wait; Koenig said the raise could entice seasonal officers to return next year.
“We’ve reduced the number of seasonal officers over the years,” Koenig said. “We’ve fallen behind other communities, like Rehoboth.”
Koenig suggested funds for increased salaries could be found by reducing projected net income for the 2020 fiscal year, which is roughly $41,000, by $12,000, or by taking surplus funds from the 2019 fiscal year after the annual audit is complete.
Commissioners Gary Persinger and David Moskowtiz suggested waiting until 2020 to implement the raise.
“There’s no need to do this now,” Persinger said. “I will support it for next year. I don’t want to take from our surplus. It should come from the operating budget.”
A motion to raise seasonal officer salaries to $13.50 an hour with an increase of $.25 per hour for each year of experience effective April 1, 2020, passed unanimously.
Mayor TJ Redefer said raising salaries of full-time officers is crucial.
“I’m concerned about the future of the Dewey Beach Police Department,” Redefer said. “There’s no way we’ll have the police department of the 21st century if we’re paying the rates we pay now.”
Cooke asked several times why the police chief had never requested salary increases for officers. “I don’t understand that,” he said.
After the meeting, Koenig said Chief Sam Mackert’s current salary is just under $92,000 per his five-year contract extension, which was approved by commissioners Nov. 14, 2015. Under the contract, Mackert’s annual base salary began at $81,657.30 in 2015 and called for a minimum 3 percent cost of living raise each year. The contract expires Dec. 15, 2020.
Koenig recommended salaries as follows: lieutenant, $70,500; sergeant, $62,500; corporal, $56,000; patrolman first class, $50,250; and patrolman, $46,000. The increases would cost an estimated $27,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year and $35,000 each year afterward, and could vary depending on overtime.
Commissioner Paul Bauer’s motion to accept Koenig’s recommendation beginning with the next pay period failed 2-3; Bauer and Redefer voted for, and Cooke, Persinger and Moskowitz voted against.
When that motion failed, Moskowitz made a new motion to increase wages beginning with the next pay period, but less than Koenig’s recommendation. Moskowitz proposed new patrolmen receive $42,000 with a $2,000 bonus if the officer stays two years, and accepted Persinger’s amendment to adjust salaries for sergeant at $60,000; corporal up to $52,000; patrolman first class at $48,000; and officer at $44,000, which passed unanimously.
Moskowitz motioned to increase the hourly wage of part-time officers to the lowest hourly wage paid to full-time officers with an additional $1 per hour because part-time officers don’t receive benefits.
After some discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to set an average wage for part-time officers at the rate of a new full-time officer, $19.70, with an additional $2 per hour, on average, to compensate for no benefits beginning Aug. 5.