By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Employees of the Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department could see a significant boost in their pay – in some cases as much as $4 per hour – under a plan discussed during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee.

Commissioners heard proposals from both Sheriff Ray Russell and County Mayor Carroll Carman with regards to raises for the sheriff’s department. Carman’s plan called for a total salary increase of almost $134,000, while Russell’s proposal would cost approximately $224,000. Both numbers also include an increase in the amount the county pays monthly toward employee health insurance from its current $380 to $472.

Russell cited increased turnover in his department in his request for increasing pay.

Courtesy of Trousdale County Government
This chart shows current salaries and pay rates (left column), the sheriff’s proposal for raises (column highlighted in yellow) and the mayor’s proposal (column highlighted in gray). Names of individual employees have been redacted.

“Out of 45 employees, I think 24 have been with us two years or less,” the sheriff told commissioners. “I think this is a fair plan and in the long term, I think it will help us retain officers, correction officers and dispatchers.”

Committee members ultimately voted 5-0 to endorse Russell’s proposal and send it to the Budget & Finance Committee with a favorable recommendation. The proposal must still go through that committee and the full County Commission and could be pared down during budget hearings, which have not yet been scheduled.

Russell’s plan would boost pay for deputies from its current rate of $16.06 per hour to $17 for a new hire and $18 once an officer goes through the training academy. Deputies with two years of service would go to $19 per hour and those with five years of service would go to $20 per hour. Those with more than five years of service would see a $4 per hour increase.

In terms of annual salary, a patrol deputy with less than two years’ experience would go from $35,910 to $40,428 under Russell’s plan, and one with over two years of service would make $42,484.

Some longtime officers would see annual increases of almost $9,000 under Russell’s proposal.

“Nobody wants to be a police officer anymore,” Russell said. “If I were 20 years old, I don’t know if I would do it. We’ve got to do something to help these people.”

Jailers would see an increase from $13.49 to $14.00 for newly trained staff, with raises to $14.50 and $15 after two and five years of service respectively. Dispatchers would go from $13.80 to $14.20 for newly trained staff, with two- and five-year raises to $14.80 and $15.30.

Those employees with over five years of service would see a $1.50 per hour raise. Also, part-time courtroom security officers would go from $12.72 to $15 per hour.

Carman’s proposal called for raises of $2,000 for all full-time employees of the sheriff’s department and $1,000 raises for part-time employees.

Committee chairman Bubba Gregory shared a list of deputy pay in surrounding counties. According to Gregory, Lafayette pays from $13.18 to $20.58, Macon County ranges from $15.83 to $16.55, Smith County pays $16.88 and Carthage pays $17.20 per hour. All those departments, except for Smith County, also pay more toward health insurance than Trousdale, even with the proposed increase.

“The only one we’re not in line with right now is Wilson County,” Gregory said, “but we can’t match that.”

Gregory noted that the mayor’s proposal would mean an average of a 6 percent raise for the sheriff’s department, while the sheriff’s plan would mean an average raise of 12 percent.

Carman said he was concerned that other departments could see a “window of jealousy” with regards to raises for their own personnel. He added that Russell’s increase would cost 12 cents on the current property tax rate.

Russell said he was currently short by four correctional staff and two deputies and hoped raises would help keep his personnel in place.

The proposal must still be heard by the Budget & Finance Committee and receive approval from the full County Commission. Budget hearings have not been scheduled as of yet and the county budget is expected to come up for a vote before commissioners at its June meeting.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.