OUR VIEW: Troup County has tough decision to make on raises

Published 10:30 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

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You surely have an opinion on what the Troup County Commission did in regard to trash, and we’re not going to revisit it here. But ultimately, the one thing commissioners could always point to was the fact that they were eliminating the sanitation millage rate since trash service was now going curbside. 

A public hearing during Tuesday’s work session showed the millage rate being reduced from 10.560 to 9.930, with the sanitation tax going from 0.637 to 0 being almost all the difference. It’d be the second straight year the county has reduced the millage rate.

Commissioners jokingly made Chief Financial Officer Sonya Conroy repeat that news in both the work session and the commission meeting on Tuesday. 

But the celebration and the jokes didn’t last very long. And the millage rate may not be dropping that far down either. 

During the same public hearing, Sheriff James Woodruff gave the commission two options that would raise the starting pay for deputies and jailers, a raise that might cost somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million by the time benefits are included. 

Woodruff has seen where the city of LaGrange just raised its starting police salaries to $60,000, and he’s already had several deputies say they are leaving to go to the LaGrange Police Department. He painted a picture where TCSO might not be able to cover everything going on in the county, including taking deputies off the interstate, if the county didn’t start paying more. 

Right now, there’s about a $16,000 starting pay difference between a Troup County Sheriff’s deputy and a LaGrange Police Department officer.

Like LPD, TCSO already has too many openings — 40 combined if you count both jailers and deputies — and that situation may be getting worse now that the LaGrange raises are official. 

Commissioner Morris Jones made the point that not everyone can go work for the LPD, and he’s right. 

Eventually, LPD is going to fill its open positions.

But what about the next time an LPD officer moves? Or quits? 

It’s going to be hard for the sheriff’s office to compete when employees doing similar jobs are making so much less.

There’s probably a happy medium here.

The commission can technically still lower the millage rate from last year but raise it compared to the current proposed rate to find enough tax dollars to fund the increase.  But will it be enough to even matter? Sure, a $10K gap in pay is much better than a $16K pay gap, but will the same conversation be needed next year?

And should LaGrange, which appears to have one of the highest-paid police forces in the state now, really be the benchmark the sheriff’s office is comparing itself to? Or, should the comparison be made to nearby counties, where TCSO’s salaries compare more favorably?

We’re always in favor of raising the pay for law enforcement. 

But where is that money coming from? 

Either the commission cuts a service or two or it raises taxes. That’s the only way these raises are happening.

We think raising the proposed millage rate is the right answer, but that surely won’t be the opinion of everyone, considering the feelings many had about the trash decision.

Raising the millage rate would allow the sheriff’s office to pay for the raises, while still providing some tax relief to taxpayers, although rising property rates mean many of you are still going to be paying more tax dollars this year. 

Ultimately, for us, it comes down to this — Paying a little more in taxes is worth having a sheriff’s deputy available if you call 911.