FLORENCE – The city of Florence didn’t have too many employees resign during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it did struggle to fill open positions, City Manager Randy Osterman said.
“We didn’t have a mass exodus, but just through normal attrition we had struggles filling those positions,” Osterman said.
Florence City Council members recently approved a 3% cost of living and merit pay increase in its 2022-23 fiscal year budget. The pay raises will take effect Jan. 1. The city’s health insurance premium was expected to go up by 18.1% on Jan. 1 but now he city will absorb the increase. Rates will not go up for employees.
The City Council added approximately 14 positions, including a police cadet program, in the 2022-23 budget.
The police cadet program is new. It will prepare individuals to become police officers once they turn 21. The budget included three cadets.
The most difficult positions to fill, Osterman said, have been police officers and sanitation workers.
“The police department and sanitation were the two areas that were probably hit the hardest,” he said.
City officials are using new approaches to recruit employees.
It recruits police officers through billboards and other advertising methods. The city produced a police officer recruitment video, which was distributed on social media and is available to view on the City of Florence’s YouTube page.
The Florence Police Department’s most successful recruiting tool has been word of mouth, Osterman said.
“We determined our best recruiters are not human resources people or advertising. It is our officers. We actually had these cards made up that officers are handing out to potential candidates,” Osterman said. “Over the last little bit, we have seen a good increase in the number of applicants and those that we’ve hired to become police officers.”
It can take up to a year for police officer candidates to complete the police academy and in-house training and start protecting and serving Florence residents, he said.
The city also is holding quarterly career fairs to find applicants for city positions, Osterman said.
Potential employees come to the career fairs and fill out applications. Some are interviewed at the career fair and may receive immediate job offers then and there, he said.
“It has been successful,” Osterman said.
The Florence Fire Department also has some positions open. Several firefighters have retired or changed careers, he said.
“We have several openings in the fire department. We are going through the process of testing in the hiring phase,” he said.
Openings in the sanitation department remain hardest to fill, he said.
Osterman said the city’s wage structure is comparable to other businesses and government entities in the region.
“We would always like to do a little bit better. Unfortunately, this year inflation is high. Maybe next fiscal year, we can work on doing something a little bit better for our employees,” he said.
Cities and counties in South Carolina are handcuffed by Act 388, which was passed by the state legislature in 2006.
Act 388 prevents cities and counties from increasing its millage rates unless there is population growth or increases in the Consumer Price Index.
The city of Florence hasn’t increased its millage rate in many years, Osterman said.
“No one is really interested in raising taxes,” he said. “You hope growth and annexation will assist in raising your revenue.”
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