Sheriff Asks Hall County for Rise in Budget for Wages

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- The Hall County Sheriff is asking the Board of Supervisors to raise his annual budget 7.1 percent to make room for his 31 staff members' wages.

With surrounding law enforcement making more money than his deputies, Sheriff Jerry Watson is asking for higher annual wages in his office.

"I asked for a 10 percent increase for our deputies, 15 percent for our Sergeants, and then 20 percent for our captains," said Sheriff Watson.

With the current payroll the Sheriff said he sees more and more staff leaving for jobs at higher paying agencies, two already this year. Of 15 new hires to the department since 2008, seven have already left, four of them to join other law enforcement agencies.

"In the last two years, we've hired quite a few people and then we've lost quite a few people so it's costing a lot of money to get them trained and then for them to hang around for 3-4 months just doesn't make sense," said the Sheriff.

In total it costs $13,161.03 to train a certified deputy and $31,215.72 for uncertified. Three of the four deputies who left for other agencies were not certified.

So the Sheriff wants the county to spend more money to keep the best in his office.

He said, "I understand they've only got so many dollars to work with but I'm in a position that I need to be able to attract quality applicants into this position because this is the professional that you want to see showing up to your house in the middle of the night and they have to be of the highest, utmost integrity."

It also becomes difficult to keep deputies when the Grand Island Police Department that shares the Law Enforcement Center pays $3.00 more per hour.

"The last time that we advertised for openings here at the Sheriff's office, we had a total of 17 applicants in comparison to the Police Department who uses the same sources of advertising for applicants, they got 72," said Sheriff Watson.

Sheriff Watson said while GIPD are their brothers and sisters, they are also their biggest competitors for staff.

Sheriff Watson said, "If we can get up to what I suggested today, it's not going to put us to the level that they're at but it's going to close that gap enough that seniority and longevity and days off and those types of things will come into play."

The department's union will begin negotiations with the county next week and a decision should be made by mid-September.