By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – The Kyle City Council gave its preliminary approval to a pay scale for its police force Tuesday night as the city edges closer to full implementation of voter-approved civil service rules for the Kyle Police Department (KPD).
However, the proposal didn’t fly by without a raised eyebrow or two from the dais. At issue is a state civil service provision, which, under a worst-case scenario, would result in paying six months of salary to train cadets who could walk away without ever working for KPD.
According to the civil service rules, the city would have to conduct open testing for applicants, with the highest scorers on the general aptitude test taking the inside track for openings on the force. If such an applicant weren’t already certified as a peace officer, and he were to survive a battery of other checks, the city would be required to send that applicant to cadet training so he could become certified, according to City Manager Tom Mattis and Police Chief Michael Blake.
“If they pass, we’re compelled to send them to training,” Mattis said.
The city would be required to pay that cadet’s salary while he is in training, which consists in a 23-week course of daily work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But when that cadet finishes training, he is under no obligation to actually accept an officer’s position with the KPD.
Fearing the worst, councilmembers amended the staff recommendation that cadets be paid a salary of $36,195, which is ten percent below the $39,615 base salary for a police officer. Mayor Mike Gonzalez suggested that the cadet pay be reduced to 75 percent of the officer base, which would bring it under $30,000. Councilmember Lucy Johnson suggested $30,000. Councilmember Michelle Lopez suggested somewhere in the range of $30,000 to $32,000.
In the end, the council agreed to pay cadets at the rate of $30,000 on Tuesday night’s first reading. The matter will go back to the council in two weeks for final approval.
Blake said outside the council chamber that even if cadets could walk away from KPD after being paid to receive certification, it’s unlikely that would actually happen.
Once candidates have passed the aptitude and physical agility tests, the KPD would put them through a number of checks, including psychological testing, credit checking, criminal background checking and interviews. Any of those checks could give KPD cause to disqualify a candidate.
“I would hope we could identify the kind of person (who would walk away after training) through that process,” Blake said.
Additionally, Blake said, “there would be ramifications” for candidates who walk away after training. For example, if a cadet were to receive certification on Kyle’s tab, then walk away and try for a job at another police department, it’s likely that police department would check his Kyle file and learn what happened.
Furthermore, once a cadet has received certification and passed a probationary period, he would be raised to police officer base pay.
“When someone gets the training, (he’s) an employee of ours,” Blake said. “It wouldn’t make sense for them to leave right away.”
Mattis said the city staff assembled the pay schedule based on the FY 2009 budget, which the council passed on second reading Tuesday night. The schedule would provide KPD officers with an average eight- percent pay increase in the coming year.
After two years at the base salary, KPD officers move up to the first step in pay, an increase to $41.009. The pay schedule calls for 11 more annual steps, topping out at $52,470 after 12 years.
The base pay for sergeants will run $52,983 for up to three years, with three steps ending at $57,057 after eight years.
The base pay for a captain is $76,735 for five years, with one step up to $82,494 after that.
The ordinance to complete a police pay schedule will officially implement civil service rules and set the city towards beefing up its police department, which has held steady with 19 officers for the last two years, while the city has grown from 18,000 to 30,000.
In November, Mattis said, the city will hire five police officers budgeted for FY 2008. The city has held off hiring those officers until implementing civil service rules. In February, the city will hire another five police officers and one sergeant provided by the FY 2009 budget.
The hires will push the KPD up to 30 sworn officers, roughly one for every 1,000 residents. The average for comparable Central Texas cities Kyle uses to gauge the marketplace comes to 1.55.Email | Print