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Oakwood approves higher starting pay for officers
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Citing the need to stay competitive, the city of Oakwood raised starting pay by roughly $9,000 for its police department.

The new rate of $20.41 hourly, or $44,607 annually, will take effect Aug. 1, but the first upgraded paycheck will come Aug. 15, Oakwood City Manager B.R. White said.

Oakwood Police has faced a staffing shortage, as the department was down 11 people last month. A full staff would require 24 people.

In June, the Hall County Sheriff’s Office started responding to overnight 911 calls in Oakwood’s jurisdiction. Oakwood Police Chief Tim Hatch told The Times this should only last a “short period of time.”

Starting pay currently is $16.21 or $35,402 annually. Compared to Oakwood’s peer communities including Gainesville, Flowery Branch and Braselton, Oakwood ranked last. 

The mid-range for Oakwood’s peer communities, the Winder and Auburn police departments, pay $20.61 and $20.67 hourly, respectively.

Because of current vacancies, White said the pay increase would not affect the current budget.

It would, however, mean a $227,274 impact to the 2023 budget, assuming the department is fully staffed.

White detailed the plan to bring any officers making less than $44,607 up to that salary or a 10% increase, depending on which is greater.

New officers certified through the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council would make the $44K salary, while officer recruits would receive $42,483.

The remaining officers and staff would receive a 10% salary increase.

Because it didn’t have an effect on the 2022 budget, White said he could have unilaterally implemented the pay increase but said  “that’s not the way I want to operate.”

“I would like just a consensus, because we don’t have to do anything within the current year’s budget,” White said to the city council.

The city council members agreed with White’s proposal.

The city also covers all medical insurance and pension benefits.