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The Villages
Friday, May 24, 2024

Wildwood could boost pay for police in bid to fill officer vacancies

Facing a dozen Wildwood police officer vacancies, commissioners are considering a hike in the minimum annual starting salary to $55,000 from $51,000.

The vacancies are about 20 percent of the 58-officer department and commissioners could consider the pay hike as early as next week.

Benefits also could be a factor in recruiting and retaining employees, they were told at a Monday workshop meeting.

At the meeting, commissioners heard a mid-year budget report and a presentation on the status of employee medical insurance coverage.

Police Chief Randy Parmer said after the meeting that he has seven candidates for the vacancies.

A minimum pay increase would “advance our recruiting process,” he said.

The vacancies caused the department expenditures to be about $1.5 million under its more than $7 million budget, Assistant City Manager Cassandra Smith said.

She said vacancies in the water department also reduced its expenditures about $1 million under its budget.

Human Resources Director Melissa Tuck said the most difficult positions to fill are those that require licensing or certification including police officers, water and wastewater plant operators, planners and lift station technicians.

She said the labor market is getting tighter with competition from private companies and other municipalities.

Wildwood pays the total cost of employee medical, dental, vision and short-term disability coverage, but its family and dependent coverage lags behind other municipalities, according to Tuck.

A study found that the city contributes less than half as much to the family coverage premiums as some other municipalities.

“We are in the lower quadrant compared to our cohorts,” Tuck said.

An employee survey found 56 percent of respondents disapprove of the city’s dependent medical plans.

Some municipalities are self-funded for employee medical coverage and Mayor Ed Wolf said Wildwood tried that unsuccessfully for a brief period.

Tuck estimated the annual cost would be $2,200 per employee to upgrade dependent medical coverage.

She suggested the city could fund some dependent premiums for its four health plans or offer a sliding scale of contributions based on longevity for its two most popular plans.

The sliding scale could start at 50 percent city funding of dependent coverage for new employees up to 80 percent for those with 11 or more years of service.


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