Hannibal city employees to receive approximately 10 percent raise; two tax increases proposed

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Members of the Hannibal City Council voted to approve an approximate 10 percent raise for city employees. | Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Hannibal City Council voted during a special meeting held Wednesday night to approve approximately 10 percent raises for Hannibal city employees, including policemen and firefighters.

Councilman Stephan Franke explained the raises are described as “approximate 10 percent increases” because of pay scales per the union contracts of police officers and firefighters. Franke said their raises might be slightly more than 10 percent, depending on the division they are in.

“Per their union contract, they have pay scales so you can’t just do flat increases. You have to do staggered pay scales based on their pay scales and union agreements,” Franke said.

The increases are in part to attract new hires for police officers and firefighters, as both departments are experiencing a shortage.

Franke said Hannibal Police Chief Jacob Nacke and Fire Chief Ryan Neisen had a goal for salaries to start at $40,000 per year for firefighters and $48,000 per year for police.

“The reason the wage increase is important for police and fire is that if someone is considering being a police or firefighter, the only thing they look at is starting pay,” Franke said.

City Hall employees will get a 10 percent raise across the board, but the employees at Parks and Recreation and the Hannibal Street Department have their own separate plan.

The raises were approved by a 6-1 vote. Councilman Mike Dobson said after his vote that he doesn’t think it is fiscally responsible to “run the reserves down too far.”

“That’s the only reason I am voting no,” he said. “I am perfectly happy with a 10 percent raise for employees.”

Dobson proposed wage increases for officers and firefighters by 6 percent and for civilian employees by 4 percent for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.  

The following budget would then support a 10 percent raise for employees, funded by a 10 percent increase in real and personal property taxes — neither of which have been increased in 50 years. 

Dobson said the county collector reported the amount of real estate taxes in 2022 was $2,012,836, and the amount of personal property tax was $606,368. The proposed 10 percent increase in real and personal property tax would raise an additional $262,120. Dobson said it would “more than bridge the gap from 6 percent to 10 percent.”

Describing himself as average, Dobson used himself as an example to explain how much the tax increase would cost Hannibal citizens. His real estate taxes on a 1,400 square foot home built in the 1990s would increase $26.49 per year. His personal property taxes would increase $15.09 per year. His total increase would be $41.58 per year.

“For me, it’s a small increase to support and retain good firefighters and police officers,” he said. “Going back to 1973, the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Even adjusted for inflation, it was $5.65 an hour. Today’s minimum wage in Missouri is $12 an hour. We couldn’t live on 1973 wages, but somehow we are expecting Hannibal to survive on 1973 wages.”

He mentioned that support could be gained from voters by officers and firefighters going door-to-door for a service, such as checking smoke detectors or listening to people in their neighborhoods who are having problems, and then educating the public on how they can support them.

Franke and Charles Phillips proposed a half-cent public safety sales tax to create a dedicated funding source for the police and fire departments. 

Franke read a memo during the meeting that he and Phillips drafted for the agenda packet. He said, “Public safety taxes are used in the smallest towns and biggest cities all across Missouri.”

Franke said shoppers who live outside of Hannibal would pay for approximately 40 percent of a public safety sales tax. 

Putting that proposal on a Hannibal ballot would require permission from the Missouri Legislature. The city would have to hire a lobbyist to write language for a bill and enlist a state representative to sponsor it.

Hannibal City Attorney James Lemon expressed concern about the city hiring a lobbyist, saying as a general rule the ethics commission doesn’t like hiring a lobbyist to get a tax passed.

He is not aware of an exception, and he plans to research it before the regular meeting next Tuesday.

Both tax proposals are tabled until Tuesday.

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