Pay increase for city workers possible under new CIP proposal - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Pay increase for city workers possible under new CIP proposal

LAWTON, Okla._ A final proposal for the 2015 capital improvement project, including $29.5 million for personnel raises within the police and fire department, is expected to be voted on by the city council May 27.

Residents urged city leaders in a public forum at city hall Wednesday night to make safety a top priority, but the current compensation for police officers isn't making Lawton an attractive place to work.

“Until we get our heads around this safety thing, we are not going to be a viable city,” said Rosemary Bellino-Hall, Ward 3 councilwoman.

Bellino-Hall highlighted the Lawton Police Department’s recruitment issue at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We put officers out there, pay them nothing and expect them to expose themselves to all the dangers."

The police force is currently between 17-22 officers short and struggling to find qualified candidates.

“They are drastically underpaid as new hires ... we just can't compete anymore,” says Keith Jackson, Ward 2 councilman.

Jackson is one of three council members, along with Jay Burk and Doug Wells, who have come up with a proposal for the 2015 C.I.P. that allocates $29.5 million to give a number of city workers a pay increase, as well as more than $70 million for additional improvements citywide.

The pay gap with police they are trying to close is significant.

“We start our careers about $14,000 low and end our careers about $13,000 behind,” said Jarrod Leaman, an attorney for IUPA Local 24.

Leaman compared Lawton to Norman, where officers’ starting salaries are more than $10,000 higher, while their calls for crime are 300 percent less.

“As long as we're 22 officers down, I don't see the crime rate per 1,000 ever getting better,” said Leaman.

“That is still the number one priority is retaining officers, paying them better and trying to get a grip on this crime problem,” says Jackson.

The current proposal for the 2015 C.I.P. recommends extending two sales taxes for 11 years. There would be no tax increase and it would bring in roughly $100 million. That money, in addition to increasing city worker's wages, would be spent on a new police and jail facility, the Lawton Public Schools, as well as road and water line projects.

A special election will be called for in August if the council approves the proposal by June 11.

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