JUPITER, Fla. - Police officers and sergeants will bring home 10 percent more each paycheck after Jupiter’s Town Council voted to raise salaries for their men and women in blue Tuesday night. This is the most generous across-the-board raise offered to the Jupiter Police Department in the last decade.
The decision comes after months of rocky negotiations between Jupiter’s Town Manager, Matt Benoit, and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), a union group which represents only officers and sergeants.
“Unless the council takes action and brings the compensation in line with the other surrounding agencies, they’re going to see a mass exodus,” Rick McAfee, Vice President of Palm Beach County’s PBA, previously told Contact 5. “Jupiter is going to become a training ground for law enforcement, which can affect the safety of the citizens.”
In a recent town council meeting, both officers and community members spoke in favor of giving officers the raises they were asking for: 16 percent increase, plus a step plan.
“It will get done. It will get worked out. It’s a process,” Benoit previously told Contact 5, after that town council meeting.
A few weeks later, Benoit offered the PBA a 10 percent raise across the board. Benoit previously said the raise would come out of the town’s current budget, and taxpayers would not see an increase in taxes as a result.
After approval by both the PBA and the town council, raises go into effect as soon as the next paycheck.
Despite the largest raise in a decade, representatives with the PBA are still trying to negotiate a new three-year contract with Benoit and Human Resources Director Nikki Carpenito. (The current contract expires Sept. 30.)
Officers say they still need another six percent and a step plan to compete with other, similarly-sized agencies like Palm Beach Gardens.
“We’re not asking to be the highest paid agency,” Officer O’Neil Anderson previously told council members during a meeting last month. Officers say they want fair compensation based on the city’s low crime rate, high recruitment and retention rate, and reputation in the county.
Currently, officers receive merit-based pay raises, which means supervisors decide how much an officer earns at the end of the year.
The max percentage an officer can earn is six percent, however, sources inside the police department say that rarely happens as supervisors are pressured to give nominal raises.
A step plan would allow officers to receive raises annually based on experience, and would help eliminate pay discrepancies between officers with experience and rookie cops with a higher starting salary.
Over the last several years, the town council has voted to raise the starting salary for new recruits, but not for experience. The starting salary increases often leave new recruits making more than an officer with three to five years of experience.
The increase does not affect captains, majors or other higher ranking officers, like Chief Daniel Kerr, as those positions are not represented by the union.