Sheriff department raises hanging in limbo… Hard figures requested for February Budget Committee

Published 11:11 pm Monday, January 31, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
The Carter County Budget Committee heard several proposals for raises to “stop the bleed” in the Sheriff’s Department before settling on a proposal to offer signing and retention bonuses with an across-the-board $2,000 raise for all county employees including the sheriff’s department.
After more than two hours of discussion at a special called committee meeting on Monday, Carter County Finance Director Carolyn Watson has been asked to provide final costs estimates for that proposal at the Feb. 14 committee meeting.
The meeting was attended by sheriff’s department employees and other commissioners, who listened as several proposals were offered by budget committee members.
“I propose that we give a $3,000 retention and sign-on bonus to be paid over the course of a year to stop the bleed so to speak that is occurring at the sheriff’s department,” said District 7 Commissioner Aaron Frazier. “As far as across the board raises for existing employees, I think going the flat amount and excluding the ones that make $53,000 or more and going with the flat rate of $2,000 will pull everybody up a little bit.”
The sign-on bonus would be issued to any employee who was hired after Nov. 1, 2021.
Ross Garland, District 5 commissioner, said he supported that proposal and recommended a sliding scale raise of up to $2,000, based on base earnings: Up to $35,000 annually, 10%; $35,000 to $45,000 annually, 7%; $45,000 to $55,000, 5%; and more than $55,000, 3%.
Garland said his request came because he believes “everyone deserves something”.
Frazier’s proposal excluded some jail employees, and Chief Deputy James Parrish warned that would cause issues. He proposed that everyone receive the retention bonus minus himself and Sheriff Dexter Lunceford.
Watson had presented four pay increase options to the committee.
The first was the sliding scale outlined previously that would apply to the sheriff, jail, highway, and remaining county employees. The cost for the remainder of the fiscal year 2022 would be an additional  $382,341. The cost for the fiscal year 2023 would be $1.7 million.
A flat 10 percent across-the-board increase would cost $503,694 for the remainder of the fiscal year and more than $1.8 million in the fiscal year 2023, Watson said.
A flat  5 percent across the board raise would cost $266,596 for the remainder of the fiscal year and $1.35 million in the next fiscal year.
Lastly, the $2,000 flat increase would cost $667,348 for the remainder of the fiscal year and over $1.4 million for the next fiscal year.
When asked which she recommends, Watson lobbied for raises that “target the people that need it the most.”
“I will be very honest with you,” she said. “Those are the people in the front lines every day and those are the people that work the hardest that make the least amount of money and struggle to put food on their family’s tables.
“As an HR person during the past years, I will also tell you how important it is to be fair to everybody across the board so it makes it hard across the board. Personally, I like the sliding scale because it hits the lower-paid employees. We really need to focus on the people that need it the most. I know that is probably not politically correct.”
The next meeting begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 14 inside the courtroom at the Carter County Courthouse.

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