MERRILLVILLE | The town's proposed 2014 budget is no different than this year's budget, Town Manager Bruce Spires said.
If some town councilmen have their way, it will change.
Councilmen Shawn Pettit and Richard Hardaway said they want to explore providing raises to town employees next year.
"We need to look at it," Pettit said.
Clerk-Treasurer Eugene Guernsey also thinks employee raises are needed, but he wants councilmen to wait to make a decision until the town receives accurate figures regarding how much of an impact the unfrozen levy and new income tax will have on Merrillville's budget.
Police Chief Joseph Petruch said raises would be especially important for the Police Department.
Petruch said Merrillville needs to provide more competitive wages to retain its officers.
He said officers haven't had raises in several years, and he would like police salaries to increase by at least $7,000.
Merrillville hired five police officers this year. They replaced officers who left the department.
The town currently has 50 officers, Petruch said. Merrillville also is seeking a federal grant, which would provide funding to pay the salaries for two additional officers. Petruch said Merrillville will find out by Sept. 30 if it's being considered for the grant.
He said there are other communities offering higher pay than Merrillville does for police, and the town needs to "keep up with the Joneses."
He said Merrillville would end up saving money if it could do a better job retaining police.
Expenses associated with the hiring of new officers include sending officers to the police academy and new uniforms, Petruch said.
Another issue the Police Department encounters during the hiring process involves background checks for officer candidates.
Petruch said the department doesn't have its own personnel division, so the detective bureau must complete background checks.
The checks can take several days to complete, which takes detectives away from their normal cases, Petruch said.
In addition to the eventual cost savings, retaining police would ensure experienced officers are patrolling Merrillville's streets, he said.