Petition calls for 'drastic' action
Clovis Police officer Lyndell Stansell, Jr., right, checks out a taser gun during a briefing for the swing shift Thursday at the Clovis Police Department along with officers Steve Wright, left, and David Lester, center. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth
Jack King and Darrell Todd Maurina
A petition on behalf of city police officers — signed by 800 residents — brought a call for drastic action from a Clovis city commissioner Thursday.
The petitioners said Clovis is not offering adequate pay to recruit and keep the qualified officers it needs to patrol city streets. To solve that problem, Commissioner Kevin Duncan called for the city to increase its property taxes to the maximum allowed.
City Manager Ray Mondragon said a study session open to the public on the petition and on Duncan’s funding suggestion will be held sometime before the commission’s first meeting in October. The city will issue a press release announcing a date for the meeting, he said.
Presenting the petition at the commission meeting Thursday night, public defender Charles Plath urged commissioners to address what he said are unacceptable police salary and staffing levels.
“Starting pay is not competitive with comparable cities in this part of the state, Roswell, Alamogordo, Carlsbad, or Hobbs,” Plath said. “I made a call this afternoon and found out we are not even competitive with the city of Elida — they pay $12.60 in Elida for new officers and we pay $11.78 in Clovis.”
Plath told the commission the petitioners want to see four main changes in the Clovis police department: higher pay, more supervisors, creation of a police commission, and a realignment in salaries to end a situation where some supervisors earn less than those they supervise.
Because the petition was not on Thursday’s commission agenda, Mayor David Lansford said the commission could not take any action. But, Commissioner Catherine Haynes suggested the commission schedule a special study session with a facilitator to consider police issues.
Then, discussing future agenda items near the end of the meeting, Duncan announced he wanted the commission to consider raising city property taxes at its next meeting, Sept. 15.
Increasing the city’s property tax mil levy from its current 3.73 mils to the statutory maximum, 7.73 mils, would generate an additional $800,000 for the city’s general fund. The money could be used for potential pay increases, Duncan said.
“I feel like if pressure’s being put on our throat, we have to turn it back to the taxpayer,” he said.
“We’re not only going to be asked for (pay increases for) the police department and the fire department, but also for Public Works and the line employees. I have no position, no other means, to know where the money is going to come from,” he added.
After objections from other commissioners, Haynes again suggested the commission call a public work session to consider the full ramifications of the petition and the need for funding. Duncan then modified his proposal, agreeing to the work session.
Commissioners Robert Sandoval questioned both Duncan’s haste and his proposed strategy.
“To an extent, I agree with you, but I don’t agree we’re into a crisis and need to do it by next meeting,” Commissioner Robert Sandoval told Duncan.
“Does anyone know how much (additional gross receipts tax revenue) will be generated by new business?” asked Commissioner Gloria Wicker.
But Duncan pointed out that the city already has raised gross receipts taxes to the maximum currently allowed. While the taxes could be additionally increased, with voter approval, state law requires that money could only be used for infrastructure improvements, he said.
Mondragon said he didn’t have an estimate Thursday night of how much a tax increase would cost individual property owners.