Slidell police officers will soon be getting raises, thanks to a new pay structure that will place more emphasis on their rank, training, specialized duties and time on the force.
Additionally, starting salaries for officers will increase by $5,500 — to just over $37,000 — as the police department seeks to remain competitive with surrounding law enforcement.
Slidell City Council unanimously approved the new pay schedule on May 25, at a meeting where it also approved a 2021-22 budget of $57.2 million that includes increases to 2 to 5% for other city employees.
The new police pay structure provides additional funding for officers assigned to specialized teams such as SWAT, K-9 and Criminal Investigations units, and it encourages education. Officers will receive an additional $2,000 per year if they have a master’s degree, $1,000 for a bachelor’s degree and $500 for an associate’s degree.
The Slidell Police Department currently has a total of 120 employees, though the new salary structure is specifically for patrol, corrections and communications officers. Secretaries, records clerks, IT staff and others will remain on the city’s open-matrix compensation policy.
Slidell Police Chief Daniel Seuzeneau said the increased starting salary was key to recruiting and retaining officers. He said there were up to 10 officer positions to be filled in the coming months and that a significant number of the department’s 82 officers were due to retire within the next year or two.
“We looked at what other agencies are doing and it’s very competitive,” he said. “We are now one of the highest paying municipalities, if not the highest, among the municipalities on the north shore.
Although the pay increases won’t take effect for a month, Seuzeneau said the department has already received requests from officers interested in moving to Slidell from other agencies.
“It’s also a big boost for the morale of people already here,” Seuzeneau said. “People who hesitated to leave will stay. … Officers have been told for years that there will be a positive change and the pay issues will be resolved. Chef (Randy) Fandal managed to do it.
Mayor Greg Cromer’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes increases for all city employees – a 5% hike for lowest-paid employees, 2.5% for mid-range employees and 2% for unclassified employees, including department heads and elected officials. The police pay increase is in addition to the cost of living increase given to all city employees.
Of the $57.2 million, $11.7 million will fund the police department. Some $4.5 million is spent on utility administration, while $3.1 million is spent on wastewater treatment and collection. Nearly $3 million is spent on public works administration costs as well as street, bridge and drainage projects. City recreation and water maintenance costs are expected to total $2.3 million each.
The $57.2 million budget is significantly lower than the city’s previous few budgets, which amounted to tens of millions of FEMA dollars that were used to repair sidewalks and street signs damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
The city has also used FEMA money to upgrade seven key city drainage systems in recent years. The latest of those projects, improvements to the Bayou Patassat drainage basin in Olde Towne, was accepted as complete at Tuesday’s meeting.