March 13, 2014 10:34:58 AM
A state bill that would give pay raises to county sheriffs statewide is waiting for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's signature.
In the Golden Triangle, Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge and Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney would each see $12,000 bumps on their base salaries from $78,000 to $90,000. Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott's base salary would increase by $20,000 to $80,000, while Noxubee County Sheriff Terry Grassaree would receive $75,000, a $20,600 raise from his current salary of $56,400.
Salaries for sheriffs are determined by a county's population size. Under House Bill 1409, a $10 increase in each fee sheriffs charge for service of summons and process would be directed toward paying the sheriff. In the 2007 Mississippi Legislature Session, that amount was authorized in a Senate bill for the same purpose, but legislators in favor of the new bill say those monies have been going to the counties' general funds because the original legislation was never properly enacted.
Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn, R-Clinton, said the recently passed bill is not an increase in funding but a redirection of funds to sheriffs that were originally supposed to go to them anyway.
Before the bill passed, some senators questioned whether small counties would be able to afford the raises without a tax increase.
Clay County Supervisor Luke Lummus said that would be the case in his county should Bryant sign the bill.
"We have an awesome sheriff. He does an awesome job. Would we be able to give the raise without a tax increase? No," Lummus said. "Let's just say (Scott) makes $65,000. If he goes to $75,000, one mill in Clay County only brings in $114,000. You've got $10,000 there and we don't know about all the different departments and what it's going to take to run those departments. Sometimes we can scale back ... and send out letters to our different departments telling them to be sure and keep an eye on their budget and keep it in line."
Gladney noted that long-time sheriffs, particularly those of smaller departments, should have higher salaries than they do now.
"I've only been here two years, but you take these guys who have been there 10, 12, 15 years and hadn't had a raise. The population has gone up, the traffic has gone up, crime has gone up and you can get spread pretty thin. The ones who have been there many years are certainly deserving," Gladney said. "Even with that raise, I'm still going to be the lowest paid person in the courthouse. We're on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just because it's Friday at 5:00 doesn't mean anything to us. I'm sitting here and I've got 26 of us counting me, but I know one sheriff ... who only has three or four deputies. The sheriff is on call just like anybody else in small departments like that. If you've got somebody off or sick, he's really just a deputy a lot of times."
The raises would take effect July 1 if Bryant signs the bill.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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