Sheriff says county not helping to fix deputy pay

Timothy C. Carter

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County’s sheriff says the government hasn’t helped his agency pay officers what it should.

The Board of Supervisors heard Sheriff Timothy Carter’s complaint during a work session on the fiscal 2017 budget on Tuesday. The board discussed funding requests for the next fiscal cycle from Carter as well as other public safety agencies in the county.

Carter asked for $5.1 million, an increase of $578,277 or 12.78 percent over the current budget for law enforcement spending not including capital projects such as vehicles or equipment. County Administrator Mary T. Price recommended in her proposed budget $4.68 million for law enforcement – an increase of only $160,507 or 3.55 percent.

But the proposed budget doesn’t address the bigger issue of pay disparity of its deputies that faces the sheriff’s office and has hurt the agency for the past 10 years, Carter told the board. The county underwent a pay study of its employees that did not include the sheriff’s office. County leaders accepted the study and employees benefited from the implementation of the recommendations, Carter said. However, the county has yet to address the recommendations presented in a similar study performed on the sheriff’s office about 7 years ago.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office continues to lose deputies to agencies in other localities that offer better salaries and benefits, Carter said. The sheriff said he believed other county employees deserved the salary increases they may have received as a result of the earlier study.

“But I do believe the pay and benefits of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office staff need to be addressed and the county Board of Supervisors needs to work on a plan regarding what we believe the county law enforcement position is worth,” Carter said. “I could go on for hours as to what I think you should value in one of these positions.”

The number of calls for the agency’s services has increased over the years, Carter said. The loss of staff to other agencies has added to the workload for other employees, he added.

“It appears to me that the county is placing little value or no value on this issue,” Carter said.

The sheriff asked the board to reconsider his request for staffing patrol deputy positions in his budget.

Carter also has tried for years to get county leaders to discuss changing the way his deputies are paid. The State Compensation Board provides some funding for deputies’ salaries but the county covers the rest. But deputies don’t necessarily receive the same salary increase afforded to other county employees.

“I’m troubled that there is no mention of this issue or even discussion about it in the county’s budget,” Carter said.

The sheriff has proposed to provide in his budget the funding to cover holiday pay for deputies as some localities do. Carter pointed out that some of the money the county pays toward the operation of the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail goes toward holiday pay for the facility’s employees.

Carter proposed another option – certification pay – that could serve as incentive for certain deputies. The county provided this benefit but cut the funding as part of austerity measures several years ago, Carter said.

The sheriff also requested $6,000 to cover the cost of procuring legal services for his agency. Carter said he ran into a problem recently when then County Attorney J. Jay Litten did not help his agency draft an agreement to provide law enforcement coverage for Edinburg. In the end, Major Scott Proctor drafted the agreement, Carter said. The sheriff noted that he has not met new County Attorney Jason Ham. Board Chairman Conrad Helsley said the sheriff could enlist Ham’s services at any time.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com