Sheriff presses council to raise pay and add deputies
A property tax increase will generate $2.3 million to improve pay for Georgetown County employees, but won’t cover a request from Sheriff Carter Weaver for a 10 percent pay raise for law enforcement and eight new patrol deputies.
“We’re being poached at a level I’ve never seen,” Weaver told County Council this week. “We cannot compete.”
His office is short an entire shift of 911 dispatchers. The staff is down by over 20 percent at the jail. And it is short 16 percent in its law enforcement staff, about 12 people.
This month, the office lifted restrictions on overtime to make sure its services continued with existing staff, Weaver said.
Raising the tax rate for the law enforcement fund by the maximum allowed by state law will generate $525,000. Adding 10 percent to law enforcement salaries would cost $810,000.
Weaver also renewed a request for eight patrol deputies that he made last year. That would cost $1.1 million in pay and equipment.
Weaver told the council that since he proposed the additional deputies, the first increase in patrol deputies since 2005, his ability to retain his existing staff has become grave. Many already live in Horry County because housing is more affordable.
“All they have to do is turn left out of their driveway instead of turning right,” Weaver said. “They simply change their uniform and go to work in Horry County.”
County Council held a workshop this week to review proposals from Administrator Angela Christian and the finance director, Karis Langston, for a $96.6 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July. That is an increase of 7 percent.
A rise in the tax rate will fund a compensation package that Christian wants to implement in the fall and winter.
“All the details aren’t complete at this time,” she said.
In addition to the state law limiting tax increases for government operations to a combination of the federal Consumer Price Index and population growth, a total of 5.46 percent this year, state law also limits the amount that values can rise for property reassessment to 3 percent a year.
The gap between what property is worth and its value for tax purposes will cost the county $1.7 million in the next fiscal year, Langston said.
As the presentation moved from the law enforcement fund to spending on emergency phone system software, Weaver interrupted.
“We do need to have a discussion,” he said.
After outlining his needs, Council Member Raymond Newton asked if the tax increase would “put a dent” in the sheriff’s request.
Christian shook her head. She added that other county departments are dealing with the same issues of employee retention.
Weaver said every law enforcement agency in the state has the same problem.
“This council will have to decide what’s important,” he said. “This is a big deal.”
While Weaver told the council he wasn’t “drawing lines in the sand,” he pointed out the 911 dispatch and the jail have been operated by the county in the past.
When the sheriff’s office took over, both were a “shambles,” he said.
“Maybe it’s time for county government once again to have ownership or skin in the game by me giving back these functions,” Weaver said.