Dyersville police officers can expect to see larger paychecks in the next 30 days should everything go according to plan.
Following the departure of several officers who opted to take employment at other local departments offering higher wages, Dyersville Police Chief Brent Schroeder came before the council in early December with a request for increased wages to serve as a mechanism for increased retention within the department.
“Our problem was that our current rates were some of the lowest in the area,” Schroeder explained.
After the proposal was discussed at length in the Community Protection Committee, the final proposal includes an experience-based pay scale that begins at $22-per-hour for an uncertified officer up to $32-per-hour for an officer with 12 years of experience.
This proposal was unanimously approved by the council Monday night, but it hinges on the Dyersville Police Department making a change in how it conducts business.
City Administrator Mick Michel explained to the council that the passing of this pay increase resolution is contingent on the local police union being done away with, adding that if the department should change its mind and wants to keep the union, this agreement would be void.
“(The resolution) will not take effect until decertification happens officially from the Iowa Public Relations board,” Michel said, which he said will likely occur in the next 30 days.
Schroeder said during the discussion, there was some concern regarding officers choosing not to join the union, which would leave the department without a “fail-safe net.” Following that discussion, the decision was to shift back to the Community Protection Group in lieu of a union, a move Schroeder said his department found to be favorable.
Councilman Mike Oberbroeckling, who sits on the Community Protection Committee, said once they were given data regarding what officers were making in similar communities, it became clear that Dyersville would need to increase its pay scale if it wanted to attract and retain officers.
“I think we’ll be very competitive when we go out to hire,” Oberbroeckling said of the new wages.
Councilman Jim Gibbs, who also sits on the Community Protection Committee, said Dyersville’s current entry-level wages were also behind the times, making it more difficult to attract what is already a dwindling pool of candidates state-wide.
According to data provided by Schroeder, an officer in Peosta starts at $18.62-per-hour, Manchester $22.69 and Dubuque $27.44. Currently, Dyersville is at $17.86.
“And after these officers are here a year or two, that’s when they are leaving because the wages around us are higher than what we are paying,” Gibbs said. “They know and like our community, it’s just that we are not competitive and it’s a very competitive situation.”
“It’s hard to compete with other towns that are offering these same people $4 an hour more than what we’re offering,” Schroeder added.
With the amount of highly-attended annual city-wide events on the docket, plus the Major League Baseball game coming to the Field of Dreams later this summer, Schroeder said it’s more important than ever to have officers familiar with the community and the process to ensure these festivities run smoothly.
“I think Dyersville is getting to the point where we really need to start retaining officers for longer periods of time,” Schroeder said.
Other than the sheriff’s department and Iowa State Patrol, this increase will put Dyersville in the upper echelon for local comparative wage scales, but that might not be the case for very long.
“Most departments in the area are already looking at re-staggering their pay scales, so we are trying to get ahead of the curve,” Schroeder said, “but I think that will be short-lived.”
As for how it will be paid for, Michel said the city is seeing a 7% increase in property tax valuation due to economic growth, which will help come budget time.
For the remainder of the fiscal year 2020, Michel said the impact will likely be in the $18,000-$20,000 range.