FLORENCE — The City Council increased the pay grade Tuesday for upper-level positions in the fire and police departments.

The unanimous decision to amend the general fund budget to include the increases comes three months after the council approved a 1-cent sales tax hike with part of the additional revenue going toward increasing police and firefighter salaries.

Those increases went to hourly employees within the two departments. Police Chief Ron Tyler said that included officers ranked sergeant and below. Fire Chief Jeffrey Perkins said it applied to all firefighters with the exception of the chief and deputy chief in his department.

Shannon Olive, treasurer and CFO for the city of Florence, said the raises will cost approximately $45,000 for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year. Most of that is $43,000 for the upper-level police positions.

"Now all sworn officers and firefighters from chief on down will get that one-step pay grade," Olive said.

Mayor Steve Holt said the 1-cent sales tax increase likely will generate some $9.5 million annually. He said sales tax accounts for approximately 57 percent of the city's budget.

The public safety pay raises will cost approximately $1.4 million annually, not including Tuesday's increases, Olive said.

Officials said the initial pay scale increases were placing the salaries of some lower-level positions close to those of their supervisors. Some veteran sergeants in the police department were making more than some lieutenants before Tuesday's pay scale adjustment.

"If we close that gap too much, it doesn't leave as much incentive to be promoted further up the ranks," Olive said.

The January grade increases came after a Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama study indicated Florence police and firefighters earned less than those at similar cities in the region.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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