Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sheriff's Raise Disputed

Supers reconsider raises
By DWAYNE BREMEROct 4, 2006, 09:03

Employees of the Hancock County Sheriff's department will have to continue to wait for raises requested by Sheriff Steve Garber, because for the second time in three weeks the board of supervisors delayed a vote on the issue on Monday.
The board cited concerns about other departments not receiving raises, and the possible long-term financial effects of the raises, as reasons for the delay.
"I'm not going to single out one department," Supervisor Steve Seymour said. "We need to sit down and look at the rest of the county.
"Several months ago, the sheriff's department received a grant of $2.549 million from the federal government. The Bay St. Louis and Waveland police departments also received money from the grant.The money is to be divided up over a three-year period. Some of the money was earmarked for overtime pay, and for salary supplements to allow local law enforcement agencies to recruit new officers and keep old ones.
Last month, the sheriff's department's administrator Ronnie Cuevas, asked the board to consider a $1 per hour raise for each employee of the sheriff's department. Cuevas said the money would be paid directly out of the grant for the next two years. He said the raises were necessary because other local agencies have used their grant money to give raises, and the sheriff's department needed to keep its qualified people. Currently, Waveland is paying $2 per hour more than the county and Bay St. Louis is paying $1 per hour more, he said.
He said the sheriff's department has $560,000 in grant money at its disposal. The raises would cost about $130,000 and there is additional money allocated for overtime. Several months ago, the board approved a raise for building official Mickey Lagasse. One of the reasons the board agreed to the raise is because the building department received a $500,000 grant, and the grant will pay for the raise, as well as new employees over the next two years.
"Mine is coming out of money that is available," Cuevas said. "If you don't use it, you lose it."
The board did not vote on the sheriff's raises at the September meeting, because board members Jay Cuevas and Steve Seymour had taken a trip to Green Bay, Wi. to attend a football game.
It did, however, approve the 2006-2007 budget at that meeting, with Jay Cuevas and Seymour voting by telephone.
The 2006-2007 budget featured a 12-percent cut across the board for all departments. Several departments, such as the building and sheriff's departments, have its grants added on to the money which was budgeted from the general fund.
The budget has no raises for county employees this year; however, several employees received raises prior to the budget, because they worked in departments in which the board had no control over the finances.
The raises caused a widespread uproar among county employees and supervisors alike, who felt it was unfair for some to get raises and not all. Board President Rocky Pullman said even though the requested raises are on a grant now, the grant will eventually run out.
The county comptroller told supers it would cost the county an estimated $300,000 to give all county employees a raise.The board agreed to look at the issue again at the Oct. 18 meeting.
Currently, Mississippi State University is conducting a salary analysis with the current job market in Hancock County.
"I would like to have a decision by next meeting," Seymour said.
© 2005 Bay St. Louis Newspapers, Inc.

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