By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A spike in the turnover rate among police and other departments has given town officials a new focus on improving workforce recruitment and retention.
Growing concern over recruitment and retention can be seen in an unfunded plan in the proposed 2012-2013 budget that would create new opportunities for pay raises and promotion among police patrol officers.
Town manager Steve Burke said the plan would establish minimum requirements that would allow officers to advance to different tiers of patrol officer designation. Under the current structure, corporal is the next step up from patrol officer, Burke said.
The Police Department is coping with the loss of six officers in the last four months, a rate that Capt. Mark Werner called "not the norm, that's for sure."
Werner said three of the vacancies are expected to be filled next month when recruits graduate from the police academy. An additional two are in the final stages of background checks, he said. That leaves one position for which the department still needs to advertise, Werner said.
Werner said four of the officers who left went to other agencies, two of them to the Warren County Sheriff's Office and two to Frederick County. One retired. Werner said the starting pay for a patrol officer is around $34,500.
Burke blamed the turnover rate on the absence of regular pay increases over the last four budget cycles. The town gave employees a 2 percent cost of living increase in the fiscal 2011-2012 budget and is proposing a one-time bonus of $500 for full-time and $250 for part-time employees this year.
In addition to police, the town has also recently lost operators at the waste water treatment plant to other communities, Burke said. Vacancies have also popped up among water and sewer maintenance employees and street crews, he said.
Burke said more needs to be done to keep competent, qualified employees and the police recruitment and retention initiative is a signal that town officials intend to do so -- eventually. For now, he said, the town lacks the money to put the plan into action.
Despite the absence of funding, Burke said the inclusion of new pay incentives for police represents tangible progress.
"The reason we included it in the budget was to establish the desire to implement the program when we can confirm that current and future revenues will support it," he said.