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“Hat in my hand” for 75 cents
The Dilley City Council has rejected a request by Police Chief Homer Delgado to increase his patrol officer salaries for the remainder of the budget year.
“I am coming to you with my hat in my hand,” the police chief said in a meeting Tuesday, July 12. “We have seen a tremendous increase in the competitiveness in the hiring of police officers.”
Delgado said that the demand for highly trained, skilled and committed officers is on the rise and other law enforcement agencies are offering incentives, higher starting pay and sign-on bonuses.
The police chief said the proposed salary increase of 75 cents per hour is necessary to attract qualified candidates and keep current officers.
“These agencies are starting lateral transfers and I already have three officers who are actively looking,” Delgado said.
The police chief said he has noticed a decrease in the number of applications that have come across his desk during his tenure at Dilley. Delgado noted that when he started two years ago he had 16 applications from qualified peace officers, but now his office sees as few as two applicants when vacant positions are available.
Delgado believes the increase in pay would entice qualified peace officers to apply to work in Dilley.
Councilor Rudy Alvarez quizzed the police chief over officer compensation for overtime when working additional hours for the Operation Lone Star grant.
City Secretary Juanita Fonesca noted that over the past two payrolls, officers have not submitted more than two hours of overtime through the grant funding.
“We are limiting them because we are not wanting them to work over sixteen hours a day,” Delgado said. “The problem is a lot of these officers are driving in from San Antonio, Laredo and Uvalde. I want to get their base pay bumped up.”
Alvarez acknowledged that officers need an increase in salary, but the councilor stood firm in a decision to wait until the new budget takes effect.
“It sounds reasonable,” Alvarez said. “I have always thought we could put it off until budget. It is always bad policy to give outside of the budget.”
Councilor Alicia Machado agreed with Alvarez’ position on waiting until the 2023 budget to provide a pay increase. However, the councilor voiced her concerns over officers leaving the department for better incentives.
“But the problem is if we do not do it now we may not have officers to do it in October,” Machado said.
Mayor Gilbert Eguia voiced the city’s support for a proactive law enforcement agency and his concern over three officers looking for work elsewhere.
“This team with the police department has made leaps and bounds with the school district and other agencies to bridge the gap with community and schools,” the mayor said.
Alvarez reiterated his position on waiting until the new budget, saying he believes other circumstances could persuade officers to apply at different agencies.
“I do not believe seventy-five cents will make a difference if these officers are [looking],” the councilor said. “They probably have other considerations that are making them look elsewhere.”
The police chief said the salary increase was not only aimed at retaining current officers but also attracting qualified applicants.
Before making a motion to deny the raise until the new budget, Councilor Alexandria Inocencio said she believes the council should do its fiduciary duty by waiting until October.
“Do I believe they need a raise? Yes,” Councilor Inocencio said. “But I think we need to have control and should have accountability over our budget.”