The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office was asked to look at its budget again to look for dollars to fill its proposed salary increase and training/education incentives, which would cost about $1.5 million, during the Board of Commissioners' budget worksession Tuesday morning.
The RCSO proposed increasing the starting salary of deputies and raises to compensate for compression effects along with incentives for more training and education in order to make the agency's starting salary more competative among metro Atlanta agencies and help reduce turnover and vacancies. Currently, said RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman, there are about 17 vacancies with six personnel in mandate training.
"With the combination of those two specific areas of training and education, you will get a 21st century law enforcement (agency). It will allow people to move into a county that is safe and free of crime. But when we're constantly having to address turnover issues, it takes away from command staff to be able to focus on the issues we should be focusing on," said Freeman.
"We're not asking for new personnel this year," he said."We're not under the illusion we're going to stop turnover or have zero vacancies in the Sheriff's Office." But, he added, "if we can have our vacancies filled and stabilized, we will be much better off."
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt expressed support in "biting the bullet" to restructure the salaries to add additional rungs for salary advancement.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness asked why some of the increases couldn't already be given within the existing classification, which range from $29,000 to $48,000, using some of the funds saved from having vacancies this year.
Freeman said it was a priority to fill and stabilize the vacancies and the RCSO wanted to be in a position to sustain the increases year after year. He asked since the RCSO looked like it would come under budget this year, if the Sheriff's Office would be able to keep and apply the amount it didn't spend to a salary increase for 2014.
Sheriff Eric Levett pointed out last year the RCSO came in under budget, helping the county come in under budget, and the funds were used for $1000 bonuses for all county employees.
Chairman Richard Oden said he was excited by the plan, especially since it gave the HR department a template and a plan to work from.
But, he added, "What's the bottom line? Show me the money. How do you get the money?"
This would mean an increase in taxes, he said.
He used an analogy. "I'm the father of the household, I've got five kids. Of those five kids all of them are hungry. It's not prudent for the father or mother to give one kid all the food and not give other kids the food."
He said he felt the Finance office and the RCSO could sit down over the next couple of days to hammer out some options.