Commission: More info needed on 10% pay raise for sheriff’s department

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Carter County Commission sent requests for $800 pay supplement and 10% raise for Carter County Sheriff’s Department employees back to the budget committee on Tuesday for further review.
The commission had more questions than answers in regard to approving the 10% across-the-board pay raise. The budget committee was charged with bringing a more detailed plan to the February Commission meeting.
In the January budget committee meeting, Carter County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy James Parrish addressed the committee about the need for the raise to improve retention and draw potential applicants to a department that is already at a “crisis level.”
The budget committee also recommended $800 supplement pay for the 26  jailers who maintained the required annual TCI Certification.
District 3 Commissioner Bradley Johnson questioned the source of funding for the proposed raises.
“In regards to salaries, wages, benefits, and retirement, you are talking in excess of $800,000 which is eight cents in taxes,” Johnson said. “Then you are going to have problems with other county employees who feel they deserve a raise as well.”
Parrish told the commission that the staffing at the jail is currently around 45 to 50 percent of what it should be which is a crisis level and if something is not done quickly someone is going to get physically hurt.
He said that if the staffing continues to drop that the five school resource officers from the county schools along with patrol officers will have to be pulled in because the sheriff is legally required to protect the jail.
“When we put these officers in these positions, they are going somewhere else,” Parrish said.
Sheriff Dexter Lunceford added that officers are working 60 to 130 hours of overtime every 28 days.
“We are the employers and we have to take care of our employees. The turnover rates are high and every time we turn and burn someone, it puts us another $10,000 to $12,000 in the hole. If we worked to retain these officers, the savings over the next few years,” said District 6 Commissioner Randall Jenkins.
Other commissioners agreed with Johnson including District 1 Commissioner Willie Campbell who stated the raise would be “unfair.”
“It’s going to be unfair to do what we are doing right now with the budget coming up for 2022 and not giving all the employees a 10% across-the-board raise,” said Campbell.
Parrish said with current staffing levels some tough decisions regarding housing federal inmates may have to be made which could result in the loss of $1.25 million in revenue. That loss would mean that the commissioners would have to find a way to fund payments on the jail.
Also on Tuesday, the commission:
  • Voted to authorize the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency to use the 2021-2022 Carter County Outside Agency contribution of $4,000 for the UETHDA Housing Services Program instead of the RSVP program.
  • Approved appropriating $150,000 for the construction of a new fire department by the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department with funding to come from the ARPA Funds if permitted or from the unassigned fund balance if not.
  • Approved appropriating $78,330 to be placed in the budget of the Parks and Rec Department with funding to come from the unassigned fund balance.
  • Approved $2,000 for a software license needed by the Elections Commission to protect data.
  • Approved the naming of the two bridges in front of Hampton High School on Highway 19-E in honor of 1965 Hampton graduate Michael Oliver and 1966 Hampton graduate Tony Griffith who both gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.
  • Approved to move $7,500 from the Baby Jane Opioid settlement to Families Free who will be doing consultation in regard to the cost involved to operate a recovery facility at the Carter County Annex in Roan Mountain.
The next Carter County Commission is 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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