BY JOSHUA SILAVENT AND NICK WATSON
A push to increase pay to stem the tide of attrition in the Hall County Sheriff’s Office is coming to a head, and county commissioners will vote on a proposal next week.
A proposed 2.5 percent pay increase and pay range adjustments for officers up to the rank of captain is on the table. Commissioners also will consider a $1 per hour increase for staff that work overnight shifts.
“In recent months, vacancies have ranged between 55 and 65 positions on average,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a press release Friday. “The vacancy rate and turnover, if unaddressed, will jeopardize our ability to fulfill our constitutional duties and our ability to provide the level of service that Hall County citizens deserve.”
If approved, the cost of the pay increases would be about $377,000 for the current fiscal year.
The raises would be paid for using funds available from the unpaid salary from vacancies in the Sheriff’s Office.
“When the increase was calculated, a buffer was allowed for any potential surge in new hires, so it won’t completely deplete the fund,” Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks wrote in an email.
“We want to address the vacancy issue,” Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Higgins said. “Our hope is that by acknowledging the sacrifice the individuals who work these shifts make, Hall County Sheriff’s officers will be retained to protect our public.”
Couch said the pay increases would be “a step forward in attracting quality applicants to these crucial positions.”
The attrition in the Sheriff’s Office has been exacerbated by new pay increases given to Georgia State Patrol officers. State patrol was included in a 20 percent pay increase last year that raised starting pay following trooper school graduation to $46,422.
Pay raises for Gainesville police officers were announced earlier this month. Starting pay for a certified officer in the city is now $40,010.88, up from $35,543.
Starting pay for a Hall County certified deputy stood at $37,658 before the announcement.
Subsequently, officers in Hall have migrated to other departments where pay is higher, leaving Hall with a growing number of vacancies, and 2017 was the first year in a while that departures exceeded hires.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs told The Times that he supports the pay raises. Gibbs said it’s also hard to recruit officers in what he believes is an “anti-law enforcement environment” and also because the region has a low unemployment rate.
“The sheriff came to us with this,” Gibbs said. “I have to allow my sheriff the ability to do his job. If I don’t, I’m handcuffing him.”
Hall County Board of Commissioners work session
What: Discussion of proposed pay raises for Sheriff’s Office personnel
When: 3 p.m. Monday; formal vote at commission’s 6 p.m. meeting Thursday
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.