The Roane County Commission approved salary increases for the Roane County Sheriff’s Office during Monday’s regular meeting at the courthouse.
“I’m glad they were supportive of that,” Sheriff Jack Stockton said Tuesday morning. “I know the men and women that work here are very grateful.”
The critical employee adjustment pay resolution for the Roane County Sheriff’s Office is for two years and will increase the starting salary for deputies and correctional officers to $44,722.
Lieutenants will go to $49,000, sergeants will go to $46,900 and corporals to $46,033.
The hope is that increasing the pay will lead to less vacancies at the sheriff’s office.
“When you over the last 12 months have maintained six to eight vacancies, that’s an issue,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said.
Commissioner Ben Wilson said it’s a safety issue.
“Their safety is actually in jeopardy the way that they’re putting low numbers out there and trying to keep the community safe,” he said.
The $470,000 to fund the increases for two years is coming from the county’s American Rescue Plan money. Some commissioners expressed concerns that the move could lead to a property tax rate increase when the two years are up.
“If we’re all still on here, what are we going to do then?” Commissioner Greg Ferguson asked. “We’re going to have to raise taxes ain’t we to cover this.”
A lot of new homes are being built in the county. Woody said he believes there will be enough growth in the county budget over the next few years where a tax increase won’t be necessary when the American Rescue Plan money runs out.
“Our hope is that the economy is good enough that we can plan to incorporate it just through the normal revenue that comes into the general fund,” he said.
The county’s new fiscal year starts on July 1. Woody said that’s when the salary increases will start.
“The budget has to be adopted by this body,” he said. “That just gives us guidance to say, ‘Ok you can use the ARP money to do it.’ ”
Some commissioners didn’t want to fund the increases with the ARP money and instead wanted to use property tax revenue.
“We’re playing with our kids’ piggy bank,” Commissioner Ron Berry said. “We’re taking $235,000 out of the piggy bank tonight and next year we’ll take another $235,000 out and then we’ve exhausted our piggy bank.”
An amendment to use property tax revenue instead of the American Rescue Plan money failed.
Ferguson also raised concerns about fairness.
“What about these other county employees?” he said. “How are we going to treat them?”
Woody said officials haven’t disregarded the other county employees. He said a 5% employee raise is being proposed for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget for the current fiscal year included an 8% raise for county employees.
There was a lengthy debate, but the resolution on the sheriff’s office pay increases ended up passing unanimously.
“It may have a ripple effect on your cities, but the question is do you want a full fleet of officers out there that’s been approved,” Woody said.