The Beverly Hills City Council signaled unanimous support for a 14% base salary raise over the next three years for the city’s police department, which would make the city’s officers the highest paid in Southern California. With the Council’s sign-off, the city will have additional discussions with the unions representing officers and then bring the matter back before Council for discussion and likely adoption on May 24.
“From my perspective, Beverly Hills should be number one. And I think, as we’ve seen, we need to do everything we can to recruit the best of the best and recruit quickly,” said Mayor Lili Bosse, who added the matter to the May 10 City Council agenda.
The pay bump would translate to a cost of $4.5 million to the city, according to a fiscal analysis conducted by the city.
Salary currently ranges between $94,000 to $150,000 for police officers and sergeants in the Beverly Hills Police Department, placing Beverly Hills third out of 14 in Southern California for police base salaries. Orange County and Santa Monica claim first and second, respectively. In terms of overall compensation, which includes benefits and overtime, the city ranks the highest in the area.
Beverly Hills firefighters earn about 10% more than police officers in the city, which Chief Mark Stainbrook said is uncommon. Generally, according to Stainbrook, police officers earn the same or more than their peers in the fire department.
Stainbrook said that raising the base salary by 14% over three years would achieve parity with the fire department and “make the city and the department more competitive in the recruitment marketplace.”
The city has struggled to reach its goal of 150 officers, with the department at a deficit of 14 officers. In past comments, Stainbrook has explained that policing goes through employment cycles and that agencies across the region are facing a wave of retirements. This puts Beverly Hills in competition with the 66 other law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County.
Additionally, Stainbrook has acknowledged that the uprising of anti-racist protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has damaged the appeal of police work and further complicated recruitment efforts.
Beverly Hills continues to see signs of growth and recovery since the pandemic-induced downturn, according to Director of Finance Jeff Muir, who reported that revenues exceeded expenditures for the latest fiscal year. This comes with significant improvements in the city’s “big four” tax revenues, which includes property tax, hotel tax, sales tax, and business license tax.
Building on trends observed in the last quarter, “we continue to see revenues significantly better than compared to the same time period last fiscal year by nearly $47 million, or almost 28%,” Muir said.
While all four major tax revenue sources have seen rebounds, the largest jump has been in the city’s hotel tax, or transient occupancy tax, which the city deferred during the peak of the pandemic while hotels saw plummeting occupancy rates. Overall, big four revenues are up 34%, Muir told the Council.
In fact, Muir noted, big four revenues have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, driven by surging property values and sales tax. Revenues from the transient occupancy tax and business license tax have nearly recovered to pre-COVID levels.
As with revenues, expenditures have also risen about $22 million, or about 12.5% compared to the same time last year. This owes mainly to rising salaries and benefits, which are tied to the cost of living. Still, Muir forecasted that the city is on pace to spend just slightly less than the planned budget by about 1%.
“Obviously we have done extremely well recovering from the effects of the pandemic,” said Councilmember Lester Friedman.