Deputies to receive pay raises early

Friday, March 30, 2007

Commissioners will look into delivering back pay early, too

Cape Girardeau County deputies will get a bigger paycheck at the end of April, thanks to an early return on a new sales tax.

The Cape Girardeau County Commission also promised Thursday it would study whether to speed up a payment, originally promised for July, to cover back pay dating to Jan. 1, the day the tax took effect.

A half-cent sales tax for county roads and law enforcement was approved by voters in August. When commissioners wrote the 2007 budget, they were unsure when they would begin receiving payments for the new tax, so they postponed boosting the pay for deputies until July.

The tax has already generated $441,723, which is far more than commissioners anticipated they would have by now. Of that amount, $72,063 is earmarked for the sheriff's department.

Sheriff John Jordan asked the commission to start the raises early and to make the back pay payments early as well. The unanimous commission vote starting the raises now and considering issuing back pay early will boost morale, he said.

"I am going to be happy with my folks getting a raise in April," Jordan said.

Deputies performing patrol duties are due an extra $6,392, which will make the starting pay for deputies equal to the starting pay for Cape Girardeau police officers. Sheriff's department employees in the communications and jail divisions will receive a raise of $4,705.

Commissioner Jay Purcell pushed for approving both the early starting date and back pay issues right away, noting that the county could borrow money from other unspent portions of the sales tax or other sheriff's budget items and then repay the funds from revenue in future months.

"There is a great amount of latitude in the sheriff's budget," Purcell said. "We are not advocating to spend any more money, but the commitment is made."

Funding the raises will require about $48,931 a month. Revised projections show that if the raises are implemented now, the tax will generate a surplus in the sheriff's account of $221,000 by the end of the year, Jordan said.

The proposal to speed up the raises was put together by Purcell, Jordan, Auditor David Ludwig, Treasurer Roger Hudson and County Clerk Kara Clark. The timing of the decision Thursday was needed to getting the computer work done to issue the bigger checks by the normal county payroll date of April 28, Clark said.

Under questioning from Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones, Clark said the decision on providing the back pay could wait until the next round of sales tax receipts arrive on or about April 10, but the decision would need to be made soon afterward.

"The likelihood is we can do both, but we would like to wait about two weeks to make sure," Jones said.

In addition to increasing the payroll, commissioners want to build repeater towers to improve reception for sheriff's department radio traffic behind hills. The faster-than-expected receipt of the new tax money means that project could take place in 2007 rather than 2008, Jones said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 126

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