Taylor County Sheriff calls for pay increases in budget negotiations
The Taylor County Sheriff’s Office saw its call volumes “continually increase,” Sheriff Ricky Bishop said during budget hearings before Taylor County Commissioners on Thursday, prompting the department to ask for more. staff and salary increases for correctional officers and assistants.
Commissioners will continue to refine the budget after hearing requests from department heads this week, adopting a final version later in the year.
Bishop said he wanted Commissioners to consider using COVID-19 funds to increase the annual starting salary for correctional officers to $ 45,000 and assistants to $ 48,000. The starting salary for a jailer is currently $ 37,000, while an assistant starts at $ 42,000.
In the “worst-case scenario,” the move would cost the county around $ 650,000, while potentially offsetting other costs, such as having to house prisoners outside the county, Bishop said.
âI also encourage you to look at all current employees, including office divisions,â Bishop said.
After:Taylor County Commissioners start budget with $ 7.5 million gap between requests and revenues
Bishop told commissioners that out of 566 county employees, the sheriff’s office employs about 250.
But personnel issues regularly plague the department, he said.
The sheriff’s office in general is down to 35 officers, including 23 at the jail.
This prompts the need to ship male prisoners, in particular, elsewhere, as the required inmate-to-officer ratios cannot be maintained.
âWe did exit interviews on everyone who left prison,â Bishop told commissioners. âThe two main reasons they leave, # 1 is the salary and # 2 is the working conditions.
Meanwhile, across the county, call volumes for MPs tend to increase, he said.
In 2019, the sheriff’s office volume was 32,874, Bishop said.
COVID-19 declined slightly to 31,556 in 2020.
But this year, “we’re on track to reach 36,000 calls for the year,” he said.
âThese are just (the) calls that are answered,â he said. “That doesn’t take into account the 75,000 to 90,000 calls that come in each year, whether they are 911 or non-emergency calls.”
With continued growth expected in the county, competitive salaries are essential, Bishop said.
Those who leave the county sometimes leave for jobs with “little or no benefits,” opting for more money in their take-home pay, Bishop said.
âThey’re tired and they go off to wear a hat for more money,â Bishop said, instead of several for less reward.
The salary increases were initially a two-year target for him, Bishop told commissioners.
âWhen I took office in 2013, one of my main goals was to increase salaries, and this is the ninth year that I’m asking for,â he said.
But even smaller counties pay entry-level workers better, he said.
Nolan County, for example, starts a correctional officer at over $ 44,000 a year, he said.
âWe need to invest more in our people,â Bishop said. âWe can’t compete with (the Texas Department of Public Safety) and (the Abilene Police Department). Currently, we cannot compete with anyone locally. But we are lagging behind with places like McDonald’s, and that is not acceptable.
Bishop said he was “sad” that after a few hours of training, “someone could hand you a bag of fries at a drive-thru window and earn more money than a correctional officer or an assistant who must take hours of training with him.with hours of continuing education.
Housing problems for inmates at Taylor County Jail are due to a lack of bed space, Bishop said. But, the vacancies cause housing problems for male inmates.
The two shortages, he said, force the county to house prisoners outside the county at a daily cost.
âToday our number (in prison) was 662, and it’s not going down,â Bishop said. âIt continues to climb slowly. “
Currently, 74 men are housed in Burnet County, Bishop said.
“The inmates who came out are 55, and these are scattered among the counties of Runnels, Scurry and Jones,” he said.
Housing prisoners out of town, in general, is expensive, Bishop said.
At a cost of $ 54 per day, housing 100 inmates at Burnet would cost around $ 2 million per year, âhe said, a figure which, in comparison, makes the increase in wages more acceptable, a- he argued.
Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for Abilene Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.