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Commissioners Approved Raises for Officers, Help with Utility Extensions

The Perry County Commission, in an eight to three vote on Monday, July 17, 2023, approved the 2023-2024 budget with no property tax increase, but drew just over a million dollars from fund surplus to help complete utilities extensions and cover the cost of pay raises for Sheriff’s officers.

The property tax was set at $2.2964 per $100 of assessed value—but a slight adjustment was made in the distribution: county general will still receive the lion’s share, $1.3612, but the amount of the tax levy going to Perry County Schools was reduced by almost two cents to 0.5721 cents, with the 0.0184 cent cut going to solid waste, 0.3631 cents.

Before Monday night’s action, the county had roughly $4 million in that unused fund balance.

The $1 million taken from those reserves includes:

–$400,000 each to the City of Lobelville and Town of Linden to complete utilities extensions;

–$220,595 in additional money to the Sheriff’s Office for hourly pay increases.

The Commission met and conducted business as the Personnel Committee immediately before the regular monthly meeting where any action taken in committee had to be ratified by the full Commission.

Sheriff Nick Weems, with use of a PowerPoint presentation, made his case for the pay increase, citing increases in call volume and the number of felony assaults, a jump in the number of cases involving crimes against deputies, and a general population increase in Perry County.

Sheriff Weems told Commissioners that good help is difficult to find, and that he had a strong team of officers now—“but for how long?”—due to losing officers to jobs with better pay and benefits.

“We recruit and train them, and they leave for higher paying jobs,” the Sheriff said, describing the cycle he has seen at his office. He added that he lost six officers just last year because of low salaries.

The Sheriff’s presentation was accentuated by actual police cam video of officers walking into dangerous situations while trying to make arrests, serve warrants, or defuse violent domestic situations, often involving drunk or drugged individuals. He also showed camera footage from officer response to a recent active shooter situation in which law enforcement used their weapons.

The more dangerous calls also require more training for officers, the Sheriff noted.

“We can no longer be the ‘quiet SO’ we’ve been in the past,” Sheriff Weems said. “Just saying ‘good job’ to my deputies does not reward them or take care of their families.”

The Sheriff said, “Our officers see citizens on the worst days of their lives, they miss family events, and they have to be ready to lay down their lives to protect others.”

The Sheriff urged Commissioners to approve competitive hourly rates in line with what other county emergency personnel are making—between $25 and $30 per hour.

EMS employees have received two recent pay increases approved by the Commission.

At emergency situations, “Officers are first ones there, and perform life-saving efforts until EMS arrives, then they provide a safe environment for EMS to save lives,” the Sheriff said.

Sheriff Weems pointed out that he has never in the past ……………..


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