The Sykesville Town Council moved to decrease holiday pay for town police officers to a level more in line with what other departments pay.
Until now, Police Chief Michael Spaulding said, officers who worked on holidays were paid at a rate of 3.5 times their regular rate for that day. The council on Monday said it would support bringing that rate down to 2.5 times regular pay.
"I guess this falls into the old 'all good things must come to an end,' " Spaulding told the council in recommending the change.
Lowering the holiday pay rate to 2.5 times would align the Police Department's holiday pay policy with that of many other police departments around the area, he said.
The inconsistency came to the attention of town staff while looking at the budget, said Sykesville Town Manager Dawn Ashbacher. After years of the Police Department being understaffed, this year's full staff has put a strain on the budget, requiring more money to sustain the force and drawing attention to the holiday pay policy, she said.
In FY15, the town amended its budget to include an additional $20,000 for public safety salaries, Ashbacher said. While staff hasn't done the math needed to determine whether all of that money was needed to cover holiday pay, she said, "the majority of it, I would say, [did]."
While the policy was never explicitly laid out in any town ordinance or contract, it has been the practice of the department for many years, Spaulding said.
There are 12 and a half holidays built into the department's calendar, he said. On those days, Spaulding said, just as on other days, the department has three officers on the street.
Councilwoman Anna Carter asked whether the town could find another way to compensate officers who work holidays at a high level without placing an unnecessary burden on the town's budget, but Ashbacher said that could result in the council having to look at adding more compensation to other town employees who regularly work holidays, such as those involved in public works.
Councilman Leo Keenan suggested the town look into hiring town police officers more often to work town events, like those hosted by the town's Main Street Association, something town staff and other council members said they would support.
The 2.5 rate, though it may not immediately be popular with officers, is reasonable, Spaulding told the council.
"Are they happy about it? No," he said. "Can they live with it? Yes."