Seeking Staffing: Sheriff, road department ask for budget increases

Published 3:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Sheriff’s Department and the Pike County Road Department are seeking to add employees in the 2015 fiscal year.

Both departments requested additional funding for staff increases during the Aug. 25 budget hearing.

The Sheriff’s Department requested a salary for a new deputy.

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“We asked for an additional deputy this year because we have an investigator retiring with 30-plus years of experience,” said Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas, adding that the hiring of a deputy actually gives the department the opportunity to fill the opening at a lower salary. “We’re really trying to add two employees at minimal cost. We need more help, but the county’s budget hasn’t been there over the years.”

Base salary, benefits for a deputy is approximately $50,000, said McKenzie Wilson, Pike County’s personnel and safety director.

“That is with benefits, and a minimal amount of overtime,” Wilson said. “Anything over the 40 hours a week is going to be considered overtime.”

Thomas said with the loss of the investigator, the Sheriff’s Department would be trying to fill a void after his retirement.

“The Sheriff Department’s workload is increasing,” Thomas said. “We’re an extension of the court system that deals with small claims, holding and subpoenas. Between juveniles, probate court and inmates (there are) about 6,000 people a year.”

The Pike County Road Department also requested two new employees for the 2015 fiscal year. Wilson said the combined salary for the new employees would be $53,000 including minimal overtime but not employee benefits.

According to County Engineer Russell Oliver, the new operators would be in charge of handling the machinery used in maintaining both paved and unpaved roads.

Oliver said the road department had been working shorthanded for several years and would greatly benefit from the addition of two new employees.

“Well, we’ve been shorthanded for several years,” Oliver said. “The commission offered a early retirement incentive as a way to cut costs. We’ve recently had some retirements and resignations and we’re just trying to build our work force back up.”

Like many other departments, Oliver said the road department could use more than just the two employees he is seeking, but he is trying to hold back in his request for additional staffing.

“It’s a financial thing,” Oliver said. “The funding just isn’t there right now. When I started working with the county, we had over 40 employees working in the road department, and right now we have a total of 26 full-time employees. We just need more help, and it’s a gradual process but we’re slowly building our workforce back up to an adequate level.”

Harry Sanders, the administrator for the Pike County Commission, said the decision to fund new employees ultimately rests with the county commissioners.

“The decision is up to the county commissioners,” Sanders said. “We’ll be meeting over the next few weeks discussing the budgets, and hopefully we can get some through soon. But, until the final vote anything can change.”

Other departments that asked for an increase in salary included the Pike County Coroner’s office and Pike County Emergency Management Agency. The coroner’s office asked for a $1,000 increase in salary. The EMA requested $9,000 in funding to be able to employe its current part-time employee for a longer span of time during the year, Wilson said.

The next budget hearing will follow the conclusion of commissions meeting’s Monday, Sept. 8 at the Pike County Health Department.