The Town of Clayton Police Committee passed a motion in a Feb. 20 meeting to forward the proposed police department contract to Clayton Town Council for a vote.
The contract for the eight-officer department is for three years, starting Jan. 1, 2014 and terminating Dec. 31, 2016.
The proposed contract includes maintaining an eight-officer department, step increases within ranks, and a two-percent pay increase each year that can be negotiated depending on the town's finances.
The motion to move forward with the contract came after nearly an hour of discussion as there were some concerns from the committee regarding guaranteeing certain things in the contract.
Mayor Tom Horn was concerned with guaranteeing that the department will maintain eight police officers.
The department currently has eight officers, one of which works as a school resource officer. Pay for the SRO is subsidized by the Smyrna School District and Providence Creek Academy but Horn was concerned about what would happen should the school districts pull out on that agreement.
Police Chief Brian Hill said the department has been down this road before where an officer left and the town didn't have the funds at the time to hire a new officer so they waited.
Councilman Dave Letterman said the town needs to have a mechanism to deal with such a situation.
Horn also voiced concern for the original proposal for a three-percent pay increase.
"I'm seriously concerned about guaranteeing an amount right now," Horn said. "This whole council knows what we're up against financially."
Horn said his concern was no reflection on the police officers; he's just scared for the town's budget in future years.
Councilman Robert Lightcap asked if the town could negotiate the increase each year based on how well the town is doing monetary wise. If the town is doing well, maybe the officers could receive a four-percent pay increase, but if the town is tight on money the officers would stay at two percent. Letterman said that's a fair argument since the budget changes each year.
Letterman commended the police department for giving up so much in the last contract including a three-percent pay increase, so having flexibility to decide the pay increase each year would be fair.
"That's something completely reasonably in my opinion," Letterman said.
Eventually, Horn asked what would happen should the town come up $250,000 short next year.
Letterman said the town hasn't been in that position for years but if it did happen, they would simply tell the town's departments they're not getting anything that year.
"We've discussed this. If I don't have the money as a town, you don't have the money as a police department. It's as simple as that. If we don't have it, they can't get it," Letterman said.
However, Letterman also said he doesn't believe the town will find itself in that situation.
After a brief break, Hill said the department will agree to a minimum two-percent pay increase that can be negotiated each year.
The contract will be discussed and voted on at the March council meeting.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.