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Police salary increase included in budget plan

If approved by voters, starting rate would boost to $45,000, but only for new hires; department to lose full-time officer position

Less than a month after former Rindge Police Officer Tom Horne left the town department for a higher paying police position in New Ipswich, the Rindge Select Board has proposed pay raises for the remaining seven full-time police officers.

The total 2014 budget expenditure for those pay raises would be $29,098, according to town officials. Jane Pitt, Interim Town Administrator for Rindge, said in a phone interview on Monday that the Select Board has decided not to fill the eighth full-time police officer position left open by Horne since calls from Franklin Pierce University have declined. She also said the effect of the pay raises on the 2014 budget should be negligible for taxpayers.

“The effect is minimal, if any,” she said. She added that the Board of Selectmen is keeping an eye on the bottom line of the budget as well as the town’s safety.

Rindge Police Chief Frank Morrill said in an email on Monday that being down one officer would be “achievable” for the immediate future. Despite FPU calls being down 35 percent, however, Morrill said that they appear to be back on the incline. “We’ll know better at the conclusion of the year 2014,” he wrote.

Horne was one of three officers to leave the department in the last few years who cited insufficient pay. In his interview for a Dec. 16 Ledger-Transcript story, Horne explained that upcoming college expenses for two of his four children were a big factor in his decision to leave after working there for over three years.

Before his resignation took effect on Dec. 31, Horne had a base salary of $38,709 for 2013. When he began working for the New Ipswich Police Department Dec. 23, he started out with a base salary pay of $45,000.

Morrill brought the issue of uncompetitive salaries to the attention of the Select Board during two non-public sessions and also at a Dec. 4 public meeting. In 2013, the town started officers certified by the N.H. Police Standards and Training Council, or the N.H. police academy, at a $37,211 base pay salary, but according to www.lawenforcementedu.net, the annual median wage for police officers in a southwestern New Hampshire non-metropolitan area in 2010, the most recent year data was collected, was $46,600.

In addition, Morrill pointed out that the town of Rindge had not done a town-wide pay scale adjustment since 2008, which put the salaries of Rindge Police Officers even farther behind those of competing towns.

The Select Board took notice of these points, and according to the Dec. 26 meeting minutes, pay increases have been awarded to the town’s current full-time officers. The minutes also say that in the future, the town will be able to offer a $45,000 base pay salary to an incoming experienced, N.H. police academy-certified officer, making Rindge more competitive with other towns.

Despite the better pay for any new police department employees, Pitt said current officers will not have their base salary boosted up to the flat, $45,000 pay. “The Board of Selectmen looked at each [salary] individually,” she said, adding that pay raises were applied to every officer’s base salary and retirement.

When asked if a structured pay scale would be considered in future years, Pitt said that is the Select Board’s aim for all town employees.

“The goal is to have a rational, structured, predictable policy going forward, for everybody,” she said. “There’s been a good deal of thought that has gone into this.” Rindge Police is just the first department to be taken care of; the Board wants to make sure all town employees have periodic pay-scale raises to remain competitive as a town.

The police pay raises, if approved by voters, will take effect in the 12-month budget cycle on Jan. 1, 2014, or last Wednesday. In addition to the officers, Chief Morrill negotiated an annual $1,000 pay raise with the Select Board during the Dec. 26 meeting, with the terms that a wage increase would not be included in his present contract that would be extended another year. In 2013, Morrill had a base salary pay of $66,100, and $70,000 is the proposed amount for Morrill’s 2014 base salary pay.

Morrill declined to comment on Monday about pay raises and referred any questions to the selectmen.

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