LEBANON, Mo -- City officials in Lebanon, including firefighters and police officers will see a pay increase starting next month. That was approved Tuesday night by the city council. But the raise only gets them about halfway to what they want the first responder's salaries to be. For the rest, the city will ask taxpayers to approve a tax increase.
City officials in Lebanon will see a minimum two percent raise starting on their next pay period. But for first responders like fire and police, they are still behind other departments their size.
"They come in, they train, they get their foot in the door and then they leave for bigger departments." said Keith Shumate, the interim police chief in Lebanon. He says officers even leave for civilian jobs that pay more than what they got paid as officers. "I need good officers and to keep them. The town is growing, we went from 24,000 calls for service five years ago, to 33,000 this year. It is a growing market and we have got to keep up." Shumate added.
Over the summer, the city of Lebanon did an extensive salary study for their entire government.
"It told us what we knew. We were behind." said Sam Schneider, the fire chief in Lebanon.
Part of that issue was helped Tuesday evening, when a small raise to city employees was passed by the city council.
"We will be implementing about $290,000 in salary adjustments for staff. 51 percent of that is focused on public safety." said Lebanon city administrator Mike Schumacher.
And although the raise will help the fire and police department, it is only halfway where they want to be. So the city is turning to voters for help.
"The city of Lebanon is going to ask voters in November for a half cent sales tax for public safety." said LeAnn Mather, who is on the city council.
City leaders say if that tax is passed, that will get the first responder's pay to where it needs to be.
"I need officers on the road, and we will be able to get four more officers and pay competitive wages for those officers." Shumate added.
Money from a previous tax will go towards building a new fire station on the southwest corner of town. Money from this public safety tax would go towards filling it.
"We need the staff to put in it, that is going to be a minimum of six firefighters that we would have to hire to staff that facility." Schneider said.
"The city is growing and the police and fire department is not. And we just need the help." Shumate explained.
Another thing that was discussed at the city council meeting was increasing the salaries for the next term's mayor and city council members. They decided to table that issue to wait and see if the public safety tax passes on November 5th.