Guest Commentary

An issue to consider

Posted

(Editor’s Note: For our readers intending to vote Aug. 4 in the Primary Election for Republican sheriff’s candidates, we are sharing some comments posted to Facebook by the interim Gasconade County Sheriff, Mark A. Williams. He is not endorsing either candidate nor does he take a position on either candidate’s stance on any proposal for a sales tax for county law enforcement operation. He is simply sharing some information on how these options might play out in either candidate’s future as elected sheriff).

BY Sheriff Mark A. Williams

First off, let me clarify a couple of things. The current manpower crisis is not the fault of the County Commission nor is it the fault of any one individual, including either current candidate for Sheriff. I can assure you that if the money were available the County Commission would increase our pay and our manpower. That is simply not the case.
What we are seeing now is what a lot of small Sheriff’s Departments across the state and across the county are facing and have faced since the beginning of time. Money has always been an issue, at least dating back to 1985 when I began my county law enforcement career. Most of us know that we are not going to earn $40,000 or $50,000 per year working as a deputy in a small Sheriff’s Department in Missouri.
The base pay for a GCSO deputy is $26,000 per year or $12.50 per hour. Fortunately, legislators realized that this is pay is ridiculously low. So, there is something called the Deputy Sheriff Supplemental Fund. The Missouri Department of Public Safety disburses additional funding on an annual basis for Sheriff’s Departments where deputies earning less than $30,000 receive enough funding to increase the base pay from $26,000 to $30,000 or $14.42 per hour.
Currently, the Gasconade County Sheriff earns $42,000 per year. My Chief Deputy earns $37,500 per year, my Staff Sergeant earns about $33,500 per year, and the other deputies earn $30,000 per year. A problem faced by a lot of smaller counties is there is no merit increase program available. County employees are lucky they even receive a cost-of-living increase. Again, it simply boils down to money and what is available and sustainable.
As far as a tax increase to benefit law enforcement, there is a valid argument on both sides of this issue as to whether the tax should include municipalities. Someone commented earlier on my original post that the tax increase in Franklin County would not have passed had the municipalities not benefited from the tax. I have no reason to doubt that.
Having said that, the municipal law enforcement agencies in Gasconade County pay their officers more than what deputies are paid. That is a fact. They offer better health benefits. That is a fact. I believe that the salary range for a Hermann PD officer is $36,778 to $60,105 depending on experience.
For Owensville PD, their salary range is $35,040 to $57,265 depending on experience. Now, these figures are estimated. I cannot speak for Hermann PD, but I know Owensville PD is also currently experiencing manpower issues. They need to increase their pay to retain and attract applicants. I understand where the municipalities are coming from too.
So, one could argue that the tax increase should benefit all law enforcement agencies within the county. The counterargument to that is this: both of those municipal agencies offer a higher salary than the Sheriff’s Department does. At the same time, both of those Chiefs would be remiss if they did not fight for higher salaries for their officers to retain and hire enough officers.
In closing, it is my opinion that if voters, at some point, do not vote for a law enforcement tax, or Proposition P-type tax then manpower is going to reach critical mass. Whether municipalities should be included, that is up to whoever proposes the tax increase.
I could argue that topic either way, but I would hope that everyone could come together and come up with a compromise. But as I said earlier, I am not going to be here much longer so my successor will be the one who fights this ongoing problem for years to come. Some people will oppose any type of tax increase. That is to be expected. So, it is up to the voters to decide should another initiative be placed on the ballot.

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