Cookeville City Manager James Mills proposed some $1.3 million in increased salaries for police officers and firefighters during the next budget year.
Mills said the proposed budget includes a roughly $10,000 raise for all police officers in the lower grades, a $5,000 raise for firefighters, and a $9,800 raise for paramedics.
“We’re talking about major improvements in pay for police,” Mills said. “But we have to do this if we’re going to stay competitive, if we’re going to be able to hire policemen.”
Mills said the salary changes are significantly more than the changes proposed by a city pay study.
“Both have done their own research on what other agencies are paying,” Mills said. “The salary survey that was done by Burris Thompson was from current salaries. Indications are to us that all cities are looking at pay raises for police. So if we went with that salary survey, we’re going to be behind to start with.”
The starting salary for police officers would increase to $50,000, up from roughly $32,900 in 2020. With the changes to the starting salaries and the officers increases, the city would be on the h
ook for some $769,000.
“We believe that our top level and higher pay positions are competitive,” Mills said. “It’s getting somebody in here. And to compete against not only other cities, but in some cases even private groups.”
Firefighters would receive a pay scale adjustment of some $5,000 per officer. Paramedic pay would increase some $4,680. Mills said roughly 50 percent of the city’s fire department calls are medical in nature.
“We want to encourage these guys to become paramedics,” Mills said. “It’s not easy to become a paramedic. It’s a year’s worth of school. It takes a lot to be one. But if that’s the service that we’re providing, we need to have personnel that can do that.”
The city only has 15 paramedics of 60 fire staffers.