The City of Prescott announces that six (6) public safety positions – three within the Prescott Police Department, and three within the Prescott Fire Department – will be filled. Recruiting of the positions is being initiated immediately.
"Both Chiefs have evidenced exceptional leadership during this time," says Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg. "The City Council defers to their judgment on how to best allocate these resources, and looks forward to this action as a stabilizing influence."
Funding of these positions will come from the City's General Fund, which will benefit from an additional $600,000 in state-shared revenue recently projected by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns to be received by the City in the upcoming fiscal year; and may be offset by SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant money for which the City has applied, to be awarded in June by FEMA. The effective date of filling each police vacancy will depend upon whether the successful candidate is a lateral transfer or academy recruit; and for the firefighter positions, after announcement of the SAFER grants expected in June.
Meanwhile, the City is exploring other ways to bolster its public safety departments, the subject of ongoing discussion during current budget talks. Based on a 2015 market compensation study, pay adjustments have been proposed for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins July 1, 2016, in order to attract and retain fire and police personnel. From 2013 to 2016, 25 police officers left City employment for reasons other than retirement, a very high level of turnover when compared to the 72 full-time positions in the adopted Fiscal Year 2016 Police Department budget. Fiscal year to date, eight police officers and four firefighters have resigned to accept other jobs. High turnover is not only disruptive but costly: expenses for a replacement, entry-level police officer exceed $100,000 considering recruitment, law enforcement academy, and first-year personnel costs while under the supervision of a field training officer.
Along with initial pay adjustments to catch up with the public safety employment market, a plan will be considered to maintain competitive pay in future fiscal year budgets while considering individual performance. Related items bearing upon public safety funding in Prescott include: voter consideration of Proposition 124 pertaining to Public Retirements Systems, in particular the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, on the May 17, 2016, statewide special election ballot; a possible City sales tax initiative for public safety; and the outcome of budget proposals to be considered by the Prescott City Council in May and June.