The Fayette County Board took action on Monday designed to address the difficulty of the sheriff’s office in getting part-time deputies and corrections officers.
At the recommendation of Chief Deputy Chris Palmer, the board voted to increase the salaries of both positions to $2 less than the current entry pay for those positions.
That, Palmer said, brings the hourly pay for part-time deputies to $19.01 and $15 for part-time corrections officers, beginning with the next pay period.
Palmer told board members that the action would help lure certified officers in the area not working for the sheriff’s office for part-time patrols.
Also, he believes that it would cut expenses, by using part-time deputies from outside the department instead of paying the department’s full-time deputies overtime pay.
Palmer said that officers who would be available for part-time patrols tend to go to communities in the area who pay more than the county.
For instance, he said, St. Elmo’s hourly rate is $3.50-$4 an hour more than the county’s.
“I can’t get people to work,” Palmer said.
“We have some great deputies here, and they work, but this is a busy place,” he said.
In July, the department had 204 overtime hours, with 144 hours filled by part-time deputies, he said.
Two full-time deputies, he said, like the overtime work, but others either are not available or do not wish to work overtime.
Sheriff Chris Smith said the part-time pay for deputies was $14.96, and had been that rate for the past 14 years.
Palmer suggested an increase of either $2 or $2.50 under the current entry level pay for deputies, instead of a lower increase, so he wouldn’t have to come back in the near future to ask for other increases.
The initial request was for $2.50 under the entry level pay for full-time deputies, but Palmer told board members during the finance committee meeting prior to the regular board meeting that he would be willing to lower that figure.
“I would love $2,” he said.
Smith said, “We’ve got to get some people to work these shifts. We have shifts where we can’t find anybody for overtime.”
Palmer said that in asking for the increases, he was also looking at the department’s budget.
On whether attracting more part-time deputies instead of using full-time deputies for overtime would save the county money, Palmer said, “I don’t know how it wouldn’t.”
While the pay for part-time deputies increases, he said, it’s still substantially less than what they pay full-time department deputies working overtime.
On average, Palmer said, the hourly rate for full-time deputies working overtime is about $42.
Reducing department expenses is one of Palmer’s priorities.
“I’m a tightwad,” he said. “This is my money as much as anybody else’s.”
“Trading down on overtime is a plus for us,” said Bruce DeLashmit of Bellwether LLC, the county’s administrative assistant.
Board member Pat Click said that getting more part-time deputies to work overtime for the sheriff could address a potential morale issue, if full-time deputies are mandated to work overtime.
“I don’t blame them,” Click said about full-timers being overworked.
On the affect of the increase on the department budget, Click said, “We will get that back in the lack of overtime (for full-time deputies).”
While initially the request was just for part-time deputies, the board agreed to add corrections officers at the recommendation of Smith.
“We also have a hard time getting part-time corrections people to work in the jail,” Smith said.