Sheriff: County pay raise could attract much needed staff

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 2021

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The Troup County Board of Commissioner’s decision to plan for a 2.5% pay raise for county employees may be a saving grace for many departments, especially that of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office.

 At the Commissioner’s Dec. 21 meeting, Major Keith Flory discussed some of the issues the Sheriff’s Office has faced in the last year, pinpointing its spread out staff as a significant health and safety issue.

 “As we stand right now, we’re looking at 10 deputies short,” Flory said, noting that neighboring sheriff’s departments like Carrol County have as many as 18 to 20 on a shift. “We’re lucky to have five on the roads at a time. We have a few positions on each patrol shift that can be filled, but I can’t find the people to fill them.”

Finding jailers as well has been a challenge, Flory said. The jail is 14 jailers short right now, he said and should have a minimum of 11 people on a shift. Right now, it’s working with seven.

On Tuesday, TCSO Sheriff James Woodruff seconded this number, noting that it takes nine to ten jailers at one time for the jail to operate safely. 

Flory added that the climate of the jail can be dangerous. Recently, one of its captains was injured and had to undergo back surgery after an incident with an inmate. 

“They deal with the worst people that the citizens of the county don’t want to deal with,” he said.

Flory has elected to designate some of his time as a fill-in jailer to compensate for this shortage starting in January. 

The Board’s decision to raise county staff wages stems from a case study conducted earlier this year by Condrey and Associates, the purpose of which was to review and revise the current pay plan for all county employees. Four options were presented from the study, and Condrey and Associates ultimately suggested Plan A, which ultimately brings in a classification change of $848,203, or 4.88%, of current payroll cost.  On top of that, there will be up to $695,362, or 3.81%, on average for employees as an equity adjustment. Mosley further explained that all employees will receive a 2.5% raise, though, depending on an employee’s specific job, they may receive as much as a 4.88% raise. The total implementation cost will be over $1.5 million and will be reflected in the county’s 2021-2022 fiscal budget.

Woodruff said that the raise is expected to push starting salaries for deputies from $17.59/hour to as much as $19.72/hour. With the study’s approval, the new starting salary in January for a deputy will be $41,011. Woodruff said that jailers’ pay is also expected to increase by $2/hour. This raise would level TCSO out with other neighboring police departments. 

As of 2020, the starting salary for a Carroll County deputy was $17.59/hour, a salary that is currently mirroring Troup County’s. Other neighboring departments such as Harris County was $16/hour, the LaGrange Police Department’s starting salary is $21.57.

The pending salary increase for the jail’s staff is greatly anticipated, Flory said, but it will take time to see if the raise will bring in the staffing it needs. 

“I’ve got to have some people in here to do [the jobs] and right now, I can’t do it with salaries the way they are,” Flory said. 

Finding suitable candidates for jailers and deputies has been turbulent, Woodruff said. 

“We’ve had many good applicants, but for every few good, you have a few bad that you just can’t consider hiring,” he said. “We had one where [the applicant] had the law called to his house at least 15 times, and we had another who was a convicted felon. You can’t be a convicted felon and work in law enforcement.”

Woodruff added that, along with dangerous conditions, the critical eye law enforcement operates under can deter applicants. However, he hopes that the salary increase will create a stronger retention rate and persuade new applicants to apply. 

“Better starting pay is going to attract people and hopefully keep people there,” he said. “People are excited … it’s boosting morale around here.”