While their combined budgets were cut $398,851, members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Clay County Justice Center will receive pay raises in 2008.
"I really appreciate the time and effort the council took this year to make sure that all county employees were fairly taken care of during the budget hearings," Sheriff Mike Heaton said about salary increases approved by the Council during their recent budget hearings. "I really applaud their efforts in addressing the problem at our department."
Council members agreed on the first day of the hearings that the recent drain of qualified and experienced law enforcement personnel because of lackluster salaries was an issue they would attempt to resolve.
On Tuesday, the sheriff's and the jail's budget were tabled until Thursday in an attempt to cut as much as possible from other departments' budgets before considering salary increases for any county employees.
"We just had to do something," Council President Mike McCullough said not only about the salary problem at the sheriff's department, but also with many other departments. "We can not afford to lose our best people because another county can pay them better wages for doing the same job. We really want to help."
McCullough used the 2007 edition of the Association of Indiana Counties Fact Book to compare Clay County's salary pay scale to the average salary for the same positions in 10 other counties of similar size and population.
"Our salary scale for many county positions was lagging behind other counties in the state of similar size," McCullough said.
The information showed the sheriff's department positions of the chief deputy, detectives and deputies and jail personnel, including supervisors and jailers, were underpaid in some cases as much as almost $6,000.
"This is something that we needed to do," Council Vice President Warren Stevenson said. "It's about time that we, as a Council, do this."
"The bottom line is this. We want to give raises," he said. "But it has to be what we can afford. We can do this."