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.
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.
"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 overbudgeted.
Commissioners Nancy Schulz, J.C. Henderson, and Lanier Sims voted in favor of the raise.
Commissioner John Douglas, the one dissenting vote, said that it would not be fair to give the Sheriff's department 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 recieves 44 percent of the county 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.
The board also held a heated discussion about the citizen landfill committee and approved several proposals for the transportation department. More to follow...