The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday sent a proposal to increase the clothing allowance for police officers and fire and emergency service personnel back to the council’s Ways and Means Committee to see if they could find the money to pay for the increases.
Personnel in both departments currently receive $600 annually, and the proposed ordinance, sponsored by Alderwoman Thelma Walker, would raise that figure to $800. The proposed ordinance was up for its third and final reading when it was sent back.
Walker had proposed using proceeds from the five-eighths cent Go Forward Pine Bluff sales tax approved by city voters last year.
Collections of that tax will end in seven years, and Alderman Win Trafford said, “We all want to do more for public safety, but those funds are be used for other things.”
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said that the city is only in its third month of this year’s budget cycle, and she felt that as the city moved forward into next year’s budget cycle, the needed money could be found then.
“We don’t have the dollars in the budget cycle now,” Washington said. “We’re just asking them to be patient.”
“They have been patient,” Walker said. “If we can’t take care of the people in uniform it shows a lack of respect.”
Alderman Glen Brown Jr. said the proposal should have been included when budgets for the police and fire departments were prepared for 2018, but it was not. He called for pulling the proposal back until a funding source is found.
“If it’s important enough to the fire and police departments, they will find the money,” Alderman Bruce Lockett said. “They have slots and things they don’t use. Let them look at their own budget to find the money.”
On another subject, the council heard the second reading of a proposed ordinance that would create a sick leave bank for non-uniformed employees comparable to the sick leave bank for uniformed employees.
Under the proposal, which will be voted on at the next meeting of the council, non-uniformed employees would be able to give up part of their accumulated sick leave to another employee who has exhausted all their sick leave, vacation and the like.
In other business, a resolution approving a salary increase for five employees of Pine Bluff District Court who deal with the court’s automation was approved without dissent.
District Judge John Kearney said the funds would come from a $5-a-month fee charged for installment payments on a fine or fee in a criminal case; half of those funds are sent to the city treasurer for deposit in the court’s automation account, which can only be used for district court-related technology.
Also approved were resolutions authorizing the transfer of a police motorcycle for scrap and the transfer of a police car to the Gould Police Department.