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Proposed pay raises for municipal workers weren’t opposed by the El Campo City Council, but they questioned whether it would help, especially in keeping police officers.

The goal, interim Finance Director Brittni Staff said, is to boost recruitment and help ensure retention. She unveiled a plan that includes raising starting pay for parks, street and utility workers as well as offering more than $77,000 in “market adjustment” hikes for the police department and more than $25,000 for EMS.

Although not saying she was against the boost, Councilwoman Gloria Harris offered her opinion on the proposed pay hikes, especially for police and ambulance crews. “We’re never going to catch up.”

Mayor Pro Tem Philip Miller agreed. “It never stops,” he said.

Retention is a major problem, especially in the PD, as is finding qualified applicants.

“There’s a police officer shortage ... It’s literally a crisis,” Police Chief Terry Stanphill said.

Police pay starts in the $20 to $21 per hour range throughout Wharton County, but sheriff’s deputies are generally issued a vehicle they take home and receive better health insurance.

“The county insurance package is probably second to none,” said Miller, who is also a former county commissioner.

Security jobs in the area earn up to $55 per hour for off duty officers, but work at an El Campo Civic Center event, for example, only pays $35 per hour.

“Wharton County has really fallen behind. We’re stagnant,” the chief said.

In addition to police and EMS boosts, across-the-board 1.5 percent pay raises are recommended for workers making more than $50,000 per year already and 2.5 percent for those making less than $50,000.

All workers will receive an additional 1 percent pay hike in January to offset a boost in retirement benefits if the plan is ultimately approved.

The pay plan is just one part of the proposed 2019-2020 fiscal year budget currently being reviewed, debated and adjusted. Budget talks will continue throughout the summer.

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