Police officers and firefighters in Colorado Springs are underpaid, and $4.3 million is needed to catch up, according to a compensation study recently forwarded to City Council.
Firefighter pay is 3.6 percent to 11.4 percent behind that of comparable cities, and cops are underpaid by 3.9 percent to 9.5 percent, depending on rank. The study, done by Waters Consulting Group, compared salaries here with those of several Colorado cities, Charlotte, N.C., and Oklahoma City, which are considered comparable to Colorado Springs.
While civilian city employees get slightly more than select employers locally, Mayor Steve Bach isn't calling for reductions, but rather salary freezes on those positions. Reductions are likely, however, in what the city kicks in for health insurance for its employees, meaning those employees can expect to pay more starting next year.
By this June, Bach also wants to see the city change how it calculates overtime and workers' compensation. For example, workers currently qualify for overtime, paid at 1.5 times their regular wage, even if they have taken time off during that pay period for holidays, jury duty or bereavement leave. Under the proposed change, only vacation time would be counted toward overtime during a pay period. The workers' comp program would continue to pay sworn personnel — police and fire — 100 percent of their regular pay, but other city workers injured on the job would be reduced to 66.7 percent.
As for boosting the wages of police, fire and a few others whose positions paid below market, Bach wants that to happen ASAP: To supplement raises already built into this year's budget, he'll be asking for an additional $1.3 million appropriation from Councilors. They may vote on that and other policies March 26; if approved, the raises would become effective March 31.