The Riley County Law Board narrowly approved the 2024 Riley County Police Department budget in a 4-3 vote Monday, which includes a 6.5% increase in overall expenditures, while maintaining a 6.5% cost of living adjustment for employees.

The $26.6 million budget includes over $1.8 million in added funds, but subtracts over $220,000 from the remaining 50% of a 2-year salary survey implementation, conducted by The Arnold Group in 2023, intended to bring wages to a more competitive rate with neighboring law enforcement agencies. As a result of Monday’s action, just 37% of the remaining survey will be funded in 2024 (approximately 19% of the total), with about 31% to be funded in future years, according to RCPD.

Some on the board favored a more targeted approach on salary increases, including Kaleb James.

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RCPD Director Brian Peete cited multiple examples from competing law enforcement agencies both regionally and from other states that are investing in personnel, addressing shortages and directly impacting the pay demands for officers. He says Riley County alone cannot affect the market value, while other communities “continue to push the needle forward.”

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Approved 2024 Budget

Peete cited an example from Nebraska where corrections officers are starting at $28 per hour, in some cases earning up to $15,000 in signing bonuses. As of November 2022, it had resulted in more than 300 vacancies being filled, according to the Kansas Reflector. (Read more here: Kansas corrections secretary anxious burnout exacerbating uniformed-officer shortage).

Others on the board, including Wynn Butler and Betty Mattingly-Ebert noted they would likely support a line item in the budget, targeted specifically to an area of need with signing bonuses.

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One of the areas where RCPD is struggling to fill positions is in corrections, which at one point during the budget process was noted to be more than a dozen positions short of where it should be. Board member and current Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson says that’s because the state has closed some of its state mental health facilities, which has trickled down to impact local municipalities.

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Director Peete urged Law Board members to consider funding the full 50 percent remaining on the salary survey.

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While the budget calls for a reduction in the remaining 2-year phased salary increases for employees, in order to reduce the overall burden to taxpayers, board member and Riley County Commissioner John Ford noted future changes are likely in store for all county and city positions, pertaining to COLA and pay adjustments.

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Board members Butler, Ford, James, and John Matta supported the 6.5% realized budget increase, while board members Pat Hudgins, Mattingly-Ebert and Wilkerson each supported RCPD’s initial proposal of a 7.4% realized budget increase.

RCPD noted in a Monday release the approved 2024 Budget includes:

·       Base Adjustments – $58,746

·       6.5% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to employee salaries – $1,199,891

·       Continued Salary Survey implementation – $626,963

·       Total increase over 2023 budget – $1,885,600

·       2024 Approved Budget – $26,937,092 (7.52% increase)

·       Carryover from 2023 budget – ($256,633)

·       2024 Approved Budget Realized Cost – $26,680,459 (6.50% increase)

*RCPD’s main funding source is property tax. RCPD represented 15.48% of County property tax and 18.89% of City of Manhattan property tax allocations for 2023.