Jail board approves officer salary increase

FRONT ROYAL — The Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Board voted on Thursday to approve a salary increase for sworn officers and managers at the jail. The new salaries will go into effect on July 1.

The salary scale adjustment increases the starting annual salary for a jail officer from $33,118 to $37,288. Starting salaries for all other sworn officer positions will also see an increase on that same scale, but positions like record clerk, receptionist and cook will see only a small increase in annual salaries. Figures from a survey conducted on area agencies, which includes pay rates of area jails and sheriff’s offices for comparison, influenced the salary increase.

A large motivation behind this proposal was to keep RSW Regional Jail competitive for recruitment, Superintendent Russell Gilkison said at the meeting. The jail has been facing issues with retaining officers. There are 29 corrections officer positions available (37 when including the eight positions the jail is required to keep open) as well as vacancies in nursing positions.

There were no job applicants in April, but there have been four officer applications submitted in May that the jail is processing, including two officers who had previously left the jail but would like to return, Gilkison added.

Daniel J. Murray, of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, added that salary is not the only factor to consider with the jail’s recruiting and retention issue, but quality of life as well. The jail has used 317 percent of the funds set to pay overtime, Murray said, adding that the jail’s officers are sacrificing their home life with the amount of work they are required to do because of the staff shortages.

“When you can make a decent living with less overtime, people jump,” Murray said.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter was the only board member to vote against the decision. Carter said he would have preferred to see alternative options to what was presented to the board, including a survey comparison limited only to jails in the region rather than both jails and sheriff agencies.

“To me, it would have been more palatable to have an alternative like that brought forward,” Carter said in a phone interview. “I think we should be looking at our options — what are we trying to do, what does it cost, those are the things I’m looking at.”

Carter added that he was not pleased with how the board approved the budget at March’s meeting without approving this pay scale increase, saying it was like “putting the cart before the horse.” He then said that he was keeping workers like teachers, landfill workers and sheriff’s deputies in Shenandoah County in mind when he declined to approve the pay increase that he described at the meeting as “hefty.”

“It does weigh on my decision when I’m thinking of those people in that position,” Carter said in a phone interview. “Whether that’s right or wrong, I think about it.”

He also said that he does think the pay at the jail needs to be increased, but not necessarily by the proposed amount.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron said at the meeting that even though all of the area law enforcement agencies are seeing vacancies, there has to be some sort of compromise to help the jail.

“It’s difficult, and this board has a very difficult task because the representatives of this board are representatives of our individual counties,” McEathron said. “There is that happy medium that we have to come to and be fair to everybody. I think this board has done that.”