Editor’s note: For clarification, we added that the budget will not be formally adopted until a second vote takes place at its Oct. 1 meeting.
The Friendswood City Council unanimously approved a $58.27 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19 on Monday, which includes merit raises for city staff and an almost 10 percent increase in police officers’ starting pay, which will help improve recruiting and retention, officials said.
The budget will be formally approved after a second vote at the next council meeting in October.
Part of the pay increase for officers is being offset by ongoing vacancies, City Manager Morad Kabiri told the council. The department currently has eight openings.
“We continually do this every year. … We budget for more officers and more officers, but we can’t hold onto them,” said Council Member John Scott, who told the council he pitched the idea to reallocate funds set aside for hiring six officers toward a higher pay to hire four instead.
“I actually thought it was a good idea,” Chief Bob Wieners said. “So the decision was made that we slow the expansion of the police department, that we would concentrate on getting those vacancies filled.”
The department has struggled to fill vacant positions and hold onto existing staff in part because of pay, Wieners told the City Council. Neighboring League City is paying officers a starting salary of $62,000, he said.
Starting Oct. 1 newly hired Friendswood police officers would see a starting annual salary of $60,775, up from $55,400, said Lisa Price, Friendswood Police Department’s public information officer. The budget also provides for a salary adjustment for city staff that includes the department’s 58 current officers.
Wieners assured the council that this would not mean the police force would be reduced, and that his goal was to be fully staffed by December 2019. The department is receiving additional funds from Friendswood ISD to assign two more school resource officers to the district.
The initial budget proposed by city staff offered a flat tax rate but lacked funding to address city staff needs as well as a shortage of police officers.
The effective rate is the rate at which the city will collect the same amount of property tax revenue as the previous year, with new construction not included in the calculation. The new property tax rate will be $0.5324 per $100 valuation, and is expected to generate around $18.1 million in revenue.