POULSBO — City officials got zapped by sticker shock Wednesday night as human resources specialist Deanna Kingery floated a proposed salary increase for the Poulsbo Police Chief position.
At Wednesday’s city council finance/administration committee meeting, Kingery informed councilmen Jim Henry and Dale Rudolph along with Councilwoman Connie Lord about the financial incentives necessary to find enough qualified applicants for the full-time position.
“We want to set the top step at $100,000 and ramp down in 3 percent increments,” Kingery told the committee.
Former Police Chief Jeff Doran’s top salary was $86,000 annually, but that was five years ago, she said.
During discussions with consultant Greg Prothman of the Prothman Company, which is conducting the police chief search, the city was told Doran’s salary wasn’t enough to draw the quality of applicants Poulsbo is seeking, Kingery said.
Prothman said the city should look at larger cities such as Vancouver to get an idea of what it will take to attract interest from officers who have the specialized skills required to not only handle law enforcement duties, but union negotiations as well, she said.
“Five years ago we would have gotten 85 applicants, but now we’d be looking at 35,” Kingery said.
In examining comparable cities for the position, which has been the city’s policy in the past, Mayor Kathryn Quade noted that Port Orchard took “a great leap forward last year,” when it increased its chief’s salary by $10,000 per year.
“Based upon Gig Harbor and Port Orchard and Snoqualmie, we came up with a number of $96,000,” Quade said.
That comparison to positions in larger cities created concern for Rudolph, who viewed it as a departure from the city’s long-standing financial policy.
“Port Orchard has a lot of things that we don’t,” Rudolph said. “I don’t want to set a precedent.”
After listening to the explanation from Kingery and Quade, Lord said the proposed wage increase is merely a sign of the times.
“We have to make it enough, so we have good people to choose from,” Lord said.
While understanding the need for the salary increase, Henry recalled a time when the city’s financial picture wasn’t quite so rosy.
“In 2000, we had to fight to get Chief (Doran) $80,000,” Henry said. “He was already at that. We had to fight to keep him where he was.”
But Lord said in her view the city doesn’t have much choice except to either raise the salary scale or risk not finding the best candidate possible.
“I don’t want turnover in four to five years,” she said. “I don’t want this to be a stepping stone. I want someone who will stay for a long time.”
At the end of the discussion, all three council members recommended approval of the increase, leaving full council approval the last step before implementation.