City council to vote on raises for police, firefighters


GREENFIELD — A potential raise for Greenfield police officers and firefighters will be put to a vote at the city council’s meeting tonight (Wednesday, June 9).

If the ordinance is approved, all law enforcement members of the Greenfield Police Department will receive a raise of $4,500, and all firefighting employees of the Greenfield Fire Territory will receive a raise of $3,875.50 to their annual salary.

The proposed increases have in the works for a long time, said former GPD chief Jeff Rasche, who recently retired.

“I really feel hopeful for the officers and the firefighters that this is going to go through,” he said.

The police pay raises would cost the city a total of $233,973 per year, while the fire territory raises would cost an additional $241,799.71. Both numbers also increase the amount the city will pay into pensions.

In March, Mayor Chuck Fewell said a pay raise for city public safety officials was essential for recruitment and retention. The mayor worked with the police and fire chiefs, as well as the city’s clerk-treasurer and HR director, on finding a level of pay increase that would be both competitive and sustainable for the city’s budget.

Fewell said Greenfield might not be able to raise pay to the level of cities like Fishers or Indianapolis, but it could do more to compete with other smaller, nearby communities.

Rasche and Brian Lott, chief of the Greenfield Fire Territory, said that as the city government considered what level of raises should be offered, officials tried to balance the desire to be competitive with other departments against the need to be fiscally responsible and allow sustainability for future budgets.

Lott said he had some employees tell him they weren’t excited about making the longer commute from homes in Hancock County to jobs in Hamilton or Marion County, but they felt they couldn’t turn down the better pay. If the pay disparity were smaller, he said, they might have stayed.

“We’re just trying to get closer, pay-wise,” he said.

Lott said the fire territory loses the most money on training and equipment for new firefighters when they move on after a short tenure with the department to one with higher pay.

If the pay increase is approved, Lott said he hopes it will boost the number of applicants for open positions with the fire territory, which have been low in the past few years. He plans to begin advertising for three new hires, who will replace retiring employees, after the increase is passed.

Current pay for new officers at the GPD is about $45,816 for the first year on the force. The pay jumps to $51,910 after three years and increases for promotions in rank.

Probationary firefighters with the fire territory make about $49,556 per year, with a salary increase to $52,494 in their first full year. Pay is higher for those certified as paramedics, and raises are offered for longevity and increases in rank. Firefighter pay varies around the county, with starting pay for the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department at about $61,000 per year.

If Greenfield public safety employees receive a raise, it may increase the urgency of the situation at the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. The county is currently considering pay raises for both sheriff’s deputies and other employees, but the process has been a long one, and Sheriff Brad Burkhart has repeatedly asked for more immediate action.

The department has also struggled with recruitment and retention, and Burkhart has warned that higher pay for Greenfield officers could increase the problem if his deputies don’t also receive a raise. The county council was scheduled to consider the issue again at its meeting this morning (Wednesday, June 9), but it is unlikely to come to a final conclusion.

Smaller county fire departments, like the one in Buck Creek Township, have also recently been vocal about the struggle to meet rising needs for services and have asked for more funds from the county.