To offer wages competitive with surrounding areas, Manhattan will ask voters in November to approve a $16,000 tax increase to give its police officers raises.

If voters approve the increase, a person who owns a $200,000 home would see a $13.50 tax increase.

Dennis Hengel, Manhattan police chief, said the increase would bump pay for each of the town’s three officers by $2 an hour, bringing them closer to what other officers make in the county. Hengel said Manhattan police officers wages are about $3 an hour less than that of Belgrade officers, and $5 less than Bozeman officers.

“It still doesn’t match Belgrade and Bozeman, but it’ll get it close,” said Hengel of the proposed increases.

The police department also looks for a certain type of officer, Hengel said, adding that because of how small the department is, officers often work and make decisions alone. He said that means hiring someone who is mature.

The small town spends a lot of time training new officers, Hengel said. But within a couple years, he said, they tend to leave for a bigger agency that pays more and has better benefits.

“We’re trying to prevent that from occurring,” he said.

Citing growth, Hengel said Manhattan is likely going to hire another officer within the next five years because of the increase in calls for service. He said the issue with having three officers in a growing town is that one is always on call.

“We’re going to need more officers,” he said. “We’re just going to get busier as you get more population.”

Hengel said the police department is planning an open house, possibly with a BBQ, in September to spread the word about the proposed increase. A date for the open house has not been set.

Freddy Monares can be reached at or 406-582-2630. Follow him on Twitter @TGIFreddy.


Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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