April 18, 2019 10:25:15 AM
Three Columbus police officers will accept promotions but will not receive their corresponding pay raises until the city lifts a hiring freeze imposed to help curb spending.
Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton announced during Tuesday's city council meeting that two police officers recently passed the exams to be promoted to sergeant and another recently passed the exams to be promoted to lieutenant. He said all three decided to take the promotion despite the hiring freeze, meaning their raises will not go into effect immediately.
The officers will officially accept their promotions in a ceremony at the May 7 council meeting.
A Columbus police patrolman's base salary is $38,485. A sergeant's base salary is $47,081 and a lieutenant's base salary is $52,454. Since experience also plays a role in pay above the base, it's unclear exactly how much the officers are forfeiting, and neither Public Information Officer Joe Dillon, Human Resources Director Pat Mitchell nor Shelton provided The Dispatch that information upon request.
It's also unclear whether the officers will receive backpay to their promotion date once the freeze is lifted.
City officials did not release the officers' names to The Dispatch by press time.
The officers' acceptance of a promotion without the corresponding pay raise led City Attorney Jeff Turnage to recommend the mayor and council establish a policy regarding promotional pay raises. Under the current hiring freeze, which city councilmen voted to enact earlier this month, the city will not hire any new employees. However, there was no freeze implemented on promotions.
"I advised the mayor it would be better to have an across-the-board municipal policy for when someone gets promoted to a higher position," Turnage said during the meeting. "(Police and Columbus Fire and Rescue employees) can get the rank if they pass the test, and they'll be promoted internally until we can find it in the budget to raise their pay."
Turnage added that he and Mitchell will "look at" formally amending the city's policies.
Shelton said the three officers up for promotion wanted to receive the higher rank regardless of whether they will get the corresponding pay.
"They wanted to continue to serve," Shelton said. "They will receive the promotions because they have taken the exams and earned it, and they'll receive the pay raise when the hiring freeze is lifted."
City officials did not have an estimate on when that will happen. The hiring freeze was implemented as part of a series of measures meant to combat a financial crisis after consultant and certified public accountant Mike Crowder reported in March that Columbus is on track to end the fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a $338,000 debt in its operating fund.
The city operated at deficits of more than $800,000 in both Fiscal Year 2017 and 2018.
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