Scotts Valley police to get 5% to 8% raises under new union pacts, new hires to get larger bonuses
Scotts Valley police officers and other unionized law-enforcement personnel will receive a salary bump this year under a new contract, and new hires — which the department is fervently seeking to fill vacant positions — will get larger hiring bonuses than previously offered.
The deal the city council approved with its two police unions Wednesday night that run retroactively from July 2020 through the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Since the agreement is temporary, the city will “almost immediately head back to the bargaining table” to negotiate an agreement to begin on July 1, City Manager Tina Friend said.
Beginning Feb. 20, members of the two unions will get pay raises that had been out of the question amid the pandemic as the city was staring down a fiscal crisis, Mayor Derek Timm said.
Scotts Valley’s budget picture is looking better than city officials expected, which “also helped us in solidifying things in our police department,” he said. “Going into the budget cycle, things were so dire and that made it hard to really offer them anything.”
Negotiations were supposed to have been finalized last year, since the most recent contract expired on July 1, 2020. But COVID-19 and the CZU Lightning Complex Fires caused delays. Police kept working without a contract.
Under the new agreement, members of the police officers’ union (which includes emergency dispatchers) will get a 5% salary increase and members of the police supervisors’ union will receive an 8% raise. A starting police officer will earn an annual base salary of $66,420, while an officer with five years’ experience will earn an annual base salary of $80,736, according to the pay scale.
The council also unanimously voted to double the signing bonuses the police department can give new hires. Instead of paying out $10,000 over three years, the police department will be able to offer $20,000 to entry-level police hires over five years. It also will offer $40,000 bonuses to “lateral” applicants coming in from other police departments who get hired for higher-ranking jobs.
“This signing bonus had been effective at its inception six years ago, but most agencies in our area now meet or exceed this level of financial incentive for new recruits and/or lateral hires,” according to a staff report.
All bonuses will be paid out over five years, as officers meet certain benchmarks, to help retain them for at least that long. Since the department has had a difficult time recruiting new hires, money that was budgeted to pay the salaries of vacant positions can instead be used for the bonuses, according to city staff.
Scotts Valley also approved a program that will give city employees $2,500 who successfully recruit “friends, neighbors, and family members” to work at the police department. “We have had the most success hiring quality candidates in the past who had a prior connection to current city staff. The proposed referral incentive would provide further encouragement to our valued employees,” the staff recommendation said.
In the last 18 months, the department has had vacancies in eight of its 20 sworn positions, Police Chief Steven Walpole told Lookout. Five officers left to go to “higher-paying agencies,” one police captain retired, and two officers left law enforcement altogether, Walpole said.
Four new officers who recently graduated from the police academy have joined the department, but must complete training before they can go out in the field alone, Walpole said.
The retention and referral bonuses are intended to make Scotts Valley competitive in recruiting law enforcement officers, and reducing staff turnover.
“In general, most departments have at least that level of hiring bonus,” Walpole said. “This new bonus that we’re proposing would exceed the other departments in our area.”
The $20,000 bonus for entry-level hires is “fairly consistent” with what other municipalities offer, but the bonus lateral officers and sergeants “is on the higher end, at least locally,” according to Friend.