Sheriff: Dept. losing deputies, money to higher pay by other agencies

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News 12 at 11 / Monday, June 23, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Aiken County Sheriff just got it and now the man with the same job in Richmond County wants it too.

He wants more money for his officers. Sheriff Richard Roundtree said he's losing deputies not to bigger cities, but to neighboring counties that pay more.

Sheriff Roundtree wants at least $3,000 more a year in each deputy's pocket, but to get that money commissioners may have to raise taxes.

Deputy Brian Strickland knows all the pros and cons of being a cop.

"We don't do it for praise or glory. We do it because we love it, and it's definitely not because of the money," he told News 12.

Putting a price tag for someone who puts their life on the line for strangers everyday is tough, but as a husband and father to 4 kids, all under 8, Strickland knows every penny counts.

"A lot of baby food, a lot of diapers to buy. So, $4,000 extra a year would be tremendous," he said

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree knows that. He's lost 225 deputies and $11 million in training over the last three years. The sheriff says 95 percent of those who leave, leave for more pay.

"We are hoping this budget cycle will be the one where the citizens and the commission see and say this is a vital part for the growth of our community," the sheriff told News 12.

This week Augusta commissioners will begin to explore how to raise the extra $1.5 million the sheriff says he needs. Commissioner Corey Johnson said it could be easier said than done.

"At this point we have exhausted all of our options. We have asked every department to cut back 2.4 percent, and now it's going to boil down to the people," Johnson said.

Michael Thurman owns 105 rental properties and pays $62,000 in property tax. He would consider paying more, but wonders if upping the millage rate is the way to go.

"Prefer doing a sales tax increase. That way everyone who is receiving the benefit of the police department is helping to pay for the police department." he said

Thurman says adding a penny to each dollar spent won't break anyone and may help deputies like Brian stick around a little longer.

"You know that coming in. You don't go into for the money. You love the job," said Deputy Strickland

On Friday, budget talks start for Commissioners. The sheriff hopes to have an answer in the next couple of months, so salaries could jump at the start of next year.

Sheriff Roundtree would like the starting pay to be between $34,000 to $36,000. He says that way he can at least compete with surrounding agencies and keep his deputies from leaving Augusta.

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