The head of the DeFuniak Springs police department says his officers are severely underpaid and it's costing him good officers. So the city is considering the biggest raise in the department's history.
But the money still might not be enough to make qualified police stay in the city.
If DeFuniak Springs city council members pass the proposed budget in September, first year police officers will get a $6,000 a year raise. Right now a beginning police officer makes about $23,000 a year.
Mike Adkinson is the DeFuniak Springs City Marshal and said, "You have to remember the poverty level is $22,000 for a family of four, so we had several officers living in close proximity to the poverty line."
Adkinson says the raise will actually save the city money in the long run.
“Because we have paid so low traditionally, we've only been able to keep them for a couple of years. About the time we'd train them they'd leave. It usually costs twice an officers salary to train for the first few years.”
Even with the raise, rookie DeFuniak Springs cops will still be making about $2,000 less than a first year Walton County sheriff's deputy, according to Officer Mindy Shelton.
"I think it's a start, but I don't think it's going to make any difference because all of the other agencies are going to get their annual raise. What they need to do is make us equal to the other agencies at the same time."
While the city has the money to offer this first large raise, Councilman Don Harrison says there are serious doubts the city can still be competitive with other neighboring agencies.
"We just can't do it. Tax values here are not nearly what they are in the rest of the county.”
Still, City Marshal Adkinson says this year's raise is an important start.
The city is considering a fee hike on public services, such as fire protection, to get the revenue needed for the raises.