The question is how to stop it, especially when all employees are working harder for less money and the proposed 2013 budget still remains $661,000 out of whack.
“We can’t fix the whole thing,” Commissioner John Mayes said. “But we can maybe put a Band-Aid on it, and then do something for these people we’re losing at an alarming rate.”
Turnover of sworn officers at the county police department is at 22 percent, compared with about 6 percent at the sheriff’s office and maybe 2 percent in other departments, according to Commissioner Garry Fricks, who chairs the finance committee.
Police Chief Bill Shiflett said his latest loss was a 15-year veteran who went to Adairsville for about $4,000 more a year and a take-home car. The main issue, however, is pay compression — a situation in which newer officers hired at a higher starting pay end up making the same or more than those who have been with the county for years.
Fricks said police officers need nearly a year of training before they’re put out on the streets, and they patrol alone so good judgement is a critical asset. Still, he voiced concerns about increasing the pay scale.
“It’s not that I don’t want to give them raises. I don’t want to give them false hope,” he said. “We need to know how we are going to follow through without raising taxes.”
The board has all but decided to follow Commissioner Rhonda Wallace’s call for a 1-percent pay hike for all employees. The across-the-board raises will run about $300,000 and likely come out of an extra-fat health insurance reserve fund.
Debate is centering around an extra increase for sworn officers, and if it will include those in other departments such as the prison, public works, recreation and sheriff’s office.
Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell asked Fricks and Mayes to meet with Shiflett on the issue and present a recommendation on Friday. The board has another budget workshop scheduled to follow an 8:15 a.m. agenda-setting session.
“We’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Bagwell said. “The problem is, how are we going to fund that.”
Interim County Manager Gary Burkhalter reminded the board that it dipped into reserves to balance the budget from 2005 – 2011. A transfer may not be necessary for 2012, he said, but the trend is projected to resume this year.
“It’s a structural imbalance that will affect our credit rating,” he said. “We still have reserves to carry us several more years, but we’re spending more than we’re taking in.”
Floyd County commissioners must adopt a 2013 budget before the end of the month.