RAIS­ING WAGES

BOC grants pay in­creases for Sher­iff’s of­fice

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - MERIS LUTZ mlutz@cov­news.com

“Do not al­low an­other $700,000 to walk out the door ... New­ton County’s been good to me, but most of all I’ve been good to New­ton County.”

— Sher­iff Ezell Brown, on the dan­gers of de­lay­ing pay in­creases

The Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted 3-1 Tues­day to ap­prove $135,000 in raises for Sher­iff ’s Of­fice and an­other $48,000 in pay in­creases for the Fire Depart­ment over the next three months un­til a bud­get can be drawn up for next year.

The de­ci­sion in­cluded pay in­creases for all NCSO staff, a $1/hour in­crease for all deputies and detention of­fi­cers, and in­cen­tive in­creases for ten­ure and rank. The Fire Depart­ment will in­crease pay for all staff ex­cept chief and deputy chief, depend­ing on years of ser­vice, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion.

Sher­iff Ezell Brown made his case for the need for im­me­di­ate ac­tion, say­ing that in the last six months since the board de­layed ac­tion on the is­sue, 12 em­ploy­ees had quit, cost­ing the county some $700,000 in­clud­ing benefits. He also pointed out that while his depart­ment has over­spent its bud­get over the past sev­eral years, it had also seen a dra­matic cut in funds and was grad­u­ally bring­ing down its spend­ing.

“Do not al­low an­other $700,000 to walk out the door,” he warned the com­mis­sion­ers. “New­ton County’s been good to me, but most of all I’ve been good to New­ton County.”

The Sher­iff ’s speech was met with a stand­ing ova­tion from cit­i­zens, and sup­port from most of the com­mis­sion­ers. County Manager Tom Gar­rett ex­plained that the money would be shifted from other ar­eas for which the county has over bud­geted.

Specif­i­cally, $50,000 will come from line item sav­ings, $75,000 from deep freeze sav­ings and a con­tin­gency line item trans­fer of $10,000 for the NCSO raises, while the ad­di­tional funds to the Fire Depart­ment will come from a cost re­cov­ery plan ($30,000) and deep freeze sav­ings ($18,000).

Com­mis­sion­ers Nancy Schulz, J.C. Hen­der­son, and Lanier Sims voted in fa­vor of the raise.

Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas, the sin­gle dis­sent­ing vote, said that it would not be fair to give the Sher­iff ’s Of­fice a

raise with­out con­sid­er­ing other county em­ploy­ees and tax­pay­ers.

“Every­body else de­serves a pay raise; what do we tell them?” he said, adding that the Sher­iff’s of­fice al­ready re­ceives 44 per­cent of the county bud­get.

The pay in­creases will add an­other $732,000 to next year’s bud­get.

Speak­ing af­ter the vote, Sher­iff Brown told The News he was pleased with the vote and hoped that the board would do even more for his bud­get next year.

“If we want a pro­gres­sive com­mu­nity and a pro­gres­sive depart­ment, we need the re­sources,” he said. “We would like to feel as if we are com­pet­i­tive with other de­part­ments in the metro area.”

Brown said the cur­rent start­ing salary for a New­ton County deputy is $14.91 an hour, which is lower than sur­round­ing coun­ties. This has led to many deputies jump­ing ship in fa­vor of higher salaries else­where.

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