Clayton police and firefighters soon will see the benefit of the new money for public safety services coming to the city from the Proposition P county-wide sales tax, approved by voters April 4.
While other county municipalities have squabbled over where exactly to spend the money, Clayton City Manager Craig Owens said his city’s approximately $800,000 a year share of Prop P is going directly to public safety.
Owens said the bulk of that will be keeping police and firefighters’ salaries up to snuff in the increasingly competitive market for police in St. Louis County. It also will be used on training and new equipment.
“It’s absolutely going to the police and firefighters,” Owens said. “It will support a raise for officers and new equipment. Most of the money that we spend on public safety in those two departments is on personnel.”
For years, Clayton has stayed committed to a pay system that keeps it competitive with the market, Owens said.
The Clayton Police Department’s budget alone is about $6 million, while the Fire Department’s sits a little less than that. Combined, the $800,000 is not a huge percentage boost of those budgets and is mostly consumed by Clayton’s market pay system.
The recently adopted October 1 budget puts Clayton at an average of 3 percent general increase for its pay system structural adjustment, Owens added.
“Even through the recession we stayed committed to that system,” he said. “But that also requires that we continuously put money into it and invest in our people through salaries and training. That’s a large part of where that $800,000 additional will go.”
Prop P is expected to generate about $80 million annually from the half-cent sales tax it imposes throughout St. Louis County. The St. Louis County Police Department will get about $46 million, and the rest will be distributed to municipal police departments on the basis of population served, according to data provided by the St. Louis County Municipal League.
Clayton will get about $797,784 a year from Prop P, while paying almost twice that (over $1.5 million) into the fund, the data stated.
Through good planning and management, Clayton’s pay raises for public safety have stayed current and consistent, a plan Owens said can be challenging but necessary.
“We stayed committed to keeping our pay current so that we didn’t have a big catch-up and we didn’t lose good people and weren’t vulnerable to those things,” Owens said. “It’s not easy to do but it’s the right thing to do and public safety is so important in Clayton and always has been.”