Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputies can expect a raise in the next pay period after the county commission authorized an adjustment Tuesday.
The change will raise the starting compensation for the lower-ranked positions, which Sheriff Duane Piper said should bring Forsyth more in line with surrounding communities.
Deputies last received a merit increase in January 2008, according to the sheriff’s office. They got a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2012 and 2013 along with the rest of the county's employees.
Under the plan approved in a 5-0 vote, entry level deputies through the rank of lieutenant will average about $2,564 more annually.
The starting pay for a deputy sheriff II, or patrol officer, will change from $34,677 to $37,241, or about a 7 percent increase, according to the sheriff’s office.
Patrol deputies in Cherokee County start at about $36,000 and the city of Johns Creek pays about $40,700, according to a market study by the sheriff’s office. With the change, Forsyth will be comparable to the city of Milton, at $37,500.
“We’re wanting to improve the officers we’re having apply and keep the good officers that we have,” Piper said.
He added that the raised standards for deputies and the hiring process also warrant the need to attract a better candidate.
The office is currently recruiting both detention and patrol officers, which were advertised to start at $32,115 and $34,677, respectively.
Piper said the pay increase will be funded within his approved budget through the end of 2013, 2014 and some of 2015 from savings realized this year of about $1.6 million to $2 million.
He went on to note, however, that the agency would not be able to absorb that cost within its current budget by sometime in 2015, when the new courthouse and detention center are expected to open downtown. Those facilities will require the sheriff’s office to increase staffing.
In the meantime, Piper credited both a reduction in force and deputies’ work to reduce the cost of services and increase efficiency for lowering the operational budget.
“We’re saving the money from what we’ve been doing previously to what we’re doing now,” Piper said. “They are doing more with less. We haven’t cut any services. We’ve actually increased the services we’re providing.”
Only certified officers will be included in the pay grade raise, despite Piper’s request to include all employees working in law enforcement, or about 20 other positions with unique job titles.
With concern for the effect to other county positions, commissioners declined to allow a raise for non-certified officers.
The county will undergo a market study across the board, which could impact the salaries of civilian agency employees.