Lawrence Co. Council members feel the county lacks the tax base to support pay raises for deputies
LAWRENCE COUNTY - SEPTEMBER 29, 2023 - The Lawrence County County' s record high budget at $35. 7 million is expected to be adopted next month.
Photo: Phil Inman told the county council members Thursday night that Lawrence County does not have the tax base to support Rick Butterfield's request to pay deputies $10,000 plus 4 percent raises
During the public hearing no one spoke for or against the 2024 Budget proposed by the Lawrence County Council.
However, following the public hearing Rick Butterfield proposal giving the Lawrence County Sheriff's deputies a $10,000 and a four percent pay increase met with resistance from fellow council members.
Butterfields's request was more in line with Lawrence County Sheriff Greg Day's request prior to the start of the 2024 budget process.
Photo: Lawrence County deputies and their families attend a Lawrence County council meeting to plead for an increase to their pay.
Sheriff's Day request include:
4 percent plus an additional $12,000 across the board raise for deputies - this process would put the starting pay at $60,539 compared to the current $46,673
Address the deputies pension in the future
Change special deputies at the court house security, transport officers, and civil process server from C scale to E scale
Change dispatchers from the E scale to the Skill A scale due to qualified and special training.
The actual cost of the proposal was $392,536.
During the debate on the matter Lawrence County Council member Phil Inman took issue with raising the pay for Lawrence County deputies. Inman told council members Lawrence County does not have tax base to support the raises.
The raises would put Lawrence County deputies at $58,000 which have put Lawrence County deputies closer to Bedford Police Department and Mitchell Police Departments.
" You cannot compare us municipalities, first of all," said Janie "Craig" Chenault.
Butterfield responded by saying " What I am trying to stop is the deputies walking across the street for better pay"
Lawrence County has lost 19 deputies over the last five years for better pay and benefits. This turnover has cost the county $1.5 million during this period of time to hire and train new officers.
Phil Inman asked Butterfield what is the ultimate goal here? " I know originally the Sheriff wanted to get his deputies in the middle of the pack,"
Butterfield responded, "The $7,500 and 4 percent does not do that".
Photo: A Lawrence County Police officer and Mitchell Police Officer was injured in the line of duty in February of this year. Lawrence County council member Janie " Craig" Chenault told fellow council members Thursday night " you cannot compare the salaries of a municipal police department to the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department
" And its going to get very hard to get there," Inman responded.
" When you actually look, this pay scale comparison, between the counties and the Indiana State Police, there are not one county can compete with ISP," said Inman.
" But when you begin not just comparing salaries but assessed value of counties. The assessed value of Lawrence County is $1.9 billion, compared to Jackson County is $ 2 billion, and Monroe County is $9 billion. We will always compete with them," Inman said.
"When you look at the Local Income Tax, Lawrence County at $5.6 Million, Jackson County is at $7 million, and Monroe County is $19 million," Inman added.
" The surrounding counties raises the bar, and we cannot compete with this," Inman continued.
" Let try to be civil," said Janie "Craig" Chenault.
" If you are looking down the road, you got to think about this, this is just not a $10,000 raise but there are withholding taxes, PERF, everything that comes out of this has to be considered, everything goes up," said Janie " Craig Chenault.
" I worry and had a conversation with Council woman Amy Redman when we was in a meeting together today. One of the things we discussed is we are in a tax bubble at this time. At the present time things are looking good. We know its leveling out but we do not know what 2-3 years is going to be like," said Chenault.
" It is a guessing game every year, trying to figure out what revenues we are going to have. Once you set a salary in place, it is there forever. The only way you could work with that is if our revenues drop is to lay people off," added Chenault.
" I feel like we have been very prudent and and judicious in giving the Sheriff and going above what the sheriff put in his budget," said Chenault.
At the present time the Sheriff's Department is only one deputy short, but six short on the road due to three in the academy, one on military leave, and one injured.
There are a total of five officers on each shift.
Under the $7,500 and 4 percent pay increase will put the Lawrence County deputies at $55,656 still below the starting pay of all Lawrence County city police forces. It takes Lawrence County officers to reach top pay verses the other police departments.
Other police agencies pay promotion wages, shift differentials, and specialty pay.
The proposal of the additional pay raise would only cost an additional $65,000.
" As we look at these numbers they make a significant increase than what we previously discussed. This is no way, they do not deserve a pay increase, but a $9,000 pay increase in a starting salary, I feel the county could commit to," said Amy Redman.
The vote on motion first went 3-3 with Butterfield, Julie Chase and Julie Hewston voting for the new proposed pay increase. Phil Inman, Janie "Craig " Chenault and Amy Redman voting no.
Lawrence County Jeff Lytton voting "Against" the pay increase to break the tie.
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