Newton County is losing up to a million dollars a year due to high turnover within the Sheriff’s Office as experienced deputies leave for higher salaries and better pensions elsewhere, Sheriff Ezell Brown said Tuesday during an impassioned plea for more funding.
The Sherrif's office currently recieves just over $10 million a year, with another $9 million going to the jail, but Brown insisted his department needs more if they are going to attract and keep top talent.
Brown did not mince words, telling the Board of Commissioners they appeared “unwilling to work on creative strategies” and had used the threat of higher taxes to kill debate since he began petitioning in 2010.
“We’ve spent more money by losing employees than it would take to meet employees needs,” he said during the BOC public meeting. “Either we fail to plan or we plan to fail."
Brown made a presentation outlining his case, pointing out that salaries in neighboring Rockdale and Henry counties were higher by nearly $8 an hour in some cases. Not only are starting salaries less competitive in Newton County, he said, tens of thousands of dollars are wasted training and testing deputies who leave for greener pastures shortly after, leading to staffing shortages and a dearth of experienced officers.
Pending a comprehensive strategy, Sheriff Brown proposed pay increases of 10 percent for captains and lieutenants, amounting to about $530,000 annually. These raises would help retain officers and decrease the amount spent on new hires, he said.
Commissioner Levie Maddox told Brown he empathized with law enforcement, but that the county’s finances were “not at an optimum level.”
“For county coffers already thin, it’s going to be hard to do a mid-year budget adjustment,” he said.
Eventually, the board approved a motion to prioritize the Sheriff Office’s budget at its two-day retreat tentatively schedule for January.
Separately, the board was briefed on roadworks, including improvements to the Route 81 intersection with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for December 17 at 10:30 a.m.
It also denied an appeal to rezone a property on Brown Bridge Road from single family residential to general commercial, reconfirmed Hugh Steele and Bill Perugino to the Board of Elections and tabled indefinitely the safe yield analysis for Lake Varner.
The board also approved Christmas bonuses for county employees for the first time in two years, using funds from the sale of right-of-way to the Georgia Department of Transportation in connection with Highway 142/Alcovy Road.