LaGrange considers utility rate increase to attract new police officers — city currently short 18 & SROs

Published 7:41 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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On Tuesday, the LaGrange City Council discussed a potential utility rate increase that would allow the city to give LaGrange Police Department officers raises and increase the department’s starting pay. The city hopes the salary increases would aid in officer recruitment and retention.

City Manager Meg Kelsey said the department has 18 vacant officer positions or about 18.75 percent of the overall police force. That number includes the vacancies created by the four officers who recently resigned from LPD amid a GBI investigation, but it does not include the vacant school resource officer positions requested by the school system.

The Troup County School System has requested five LPD officers to serve as school resource officers. TCSS has agreed to provide $66,000 to the city for each officer. Including the school resource officers, the department is down 23 officers overall (22.77%). The city has said it will only provide the officers once it has the staff to do so.

Councilman Mark Mitchell suggested increasing the starting pay for officers to $60,000 (up from $51,500) as a recruitment tool. He said it could also potentially draw people that are already certified so the city does not have to wait for or pay to train them.

“We’ve got to have police officers if we’re trying to stop these shootings,” Mitchell said, noting the recent teen shootings that have plagued LaGrange.

“This was probably the lowest deficit as far as officers go that we’ve had in a long time,” Councilman Tom Gore noted.

Kelsey said the city would also need to be concerned about the impression to other officers, not just recruits, and suggested just increasing all police salaries by $8,000. She said the impact on the budget would be $961,601, which would likely require a utility rate hike.

“We’re competing with Kia and these other companies. We’ve got to have something that draws [officers] here,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to have officers patrolling on the street.”

“The big question here to the council is are you OK with an electric rate increase because I don’t have that in the budget?” Kelsey asked.

Patrick Bowie said to pay for the increase using only electricity sales it would require a 2-3% electric rate increase or about $3 on a $100 electric bill. He said even with the rate increase, the city would still be significantly cheaper than Diverse Power.

Mitchell asked Bowie to get them the numbers so that the public would know the exact increase to the rate and what the average customer would pay before the council makes a decision.