Some people have criticized Cornelius Police Chief Bence Hoyle for calling town employee pay levels “ridiculous,” describing his comments as insensitive to taxpayers who have lost jobs and face declining family incomes and risk of losing homes in the great recession. Others, including some commissioners, have embraced the chief’s request for 10 to 20 percent pay hikes, agreed that town employees must be paid far more in all departments and not bothered to ask important questions. Neither response is appropriate. We need a responsible, fact-based discussion, and we must address the issue, which is real, responsibly over time.
Here’s the first fact to understand – We have the best chief of police imaginable. Chief Hoyle is a savvy veteran who runs a world-class operation. He is a progressive, creative thinker, a genius with technology and pursues an inspiring vision for Cornelius law enforcement. No surprise that he makes a strong case for more resources and higher pay for his people. That said, taxpayer dollars are sacred, so important questions must be asked:
• How do we ensure police department cost-effectiveness long term, especially since department spending has almost tripled in the past decade from $1.56 million in 2000, with a brand new building, to $4.39 million last year?
• Are the 11 new entry-level employees we added to the department last year potentially skewing the comparison of pay averages with other towns?
• Should we even be comparing ourselves to Charlotte with its vastly different demographics, scale and crime patterns? Or Davidson with its college campus and 33 percent higher tax rate?
• How can technology and other productivity tools help us to achieve better law enforcement, cost control and higher pay for our officers?
As fiduciaries of taxpayer dollars, we have to be responsible and methodical in how we address these issues. Yes, we can close obvious, significant pay gaps, and we will. Cornelius has benefited from years of rapid increases in tax revenue due to escalating property values and unfortunately, the 6 percent Bensman/Ross tax rate increase of 2007. We have also seen 9 to 10 percent annual compounded increases in fixed/recurring spending since 2000. This cannot continue with population and property values stabilizing. We need balance and caution.
Dave Gilroy, Commissioner,
Town of Cornelius