FLORENCE — Four months after the Alabama Legislature gave Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton a 23 percent pay raise, he has asked county commissioners to review the pay scales for his deputies and jailers.
Singleton said he is bringing up the matter now since the commission has started work on the fiscal 2019-20 budget.
Singleton is currently making $78,760. Starting Oct. 1, his new salary will be $96,760 a year, which he said is more in line with the pay of sheriffs of similar size counties in Alabama.
The requested pay increases could cost taxpayers $400,000 — $250,000 for the county's 47 deputies and $150,000 for its 35 corrections officers.
"This is an issue we've been discussing off and on ever since I've been in office for almost five years," Singleton said. "We've made some progress. We've gotten the starting salary for deputies up by 20.6 percent and corrections by 25.4 percent. That's still not really competitive with large agencies here in the area and in the state."
Singleton would like the starting pay for deputies to be at least $36,000 a year, and $30,000 a year for corrections officers. Education, training and experience could boost a new hire's starting pay.
One of the driving issues behind the requested pay raises is retention, said Singleton.
"I've lost four deputies recently," he said. "Three were for jobs that pay more. Another has a successful private business and his work volume had increased to the point where he had to devote full time to it.
"This is not only a Lauderdale County issue," Singleton said. "This is all over the country. Law enforcement officers have just historically been underpaid, and even at the salaries I'm requesting they're not being overpaid by any stretch. They deserve and earn every penny of it."
Another reason the pay grade change is needed is to eliminate the chances of workers earning more than their supervisors.
"The pay scale I proposed is a 12-step scale that covers 30 years," Singleton said. "The current scale is 10 steps, but there's no official top-out pay for any position.
For example: Singleton said under the existing pay scale, a deputy with 30 years experience can earn more than $70,000. Singleton's proposal would top that at $51,000 to $54,000, depending on training, education and experience.
"My proposal puts a top-out pay comparable to others. It puts us more in line with Florence and Muscle Shoals police departments."