Proposed fees would help fund sheriff's departments

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Senate committee studying county sheriffs recommends charging people higher court fees to boost deputy sheriff pay. The money would go to the Missouri Sheriffs' Association to decide what departments would receive the extra cash.

The proposal is one of several ideas designed to get more money to sheriffs' departments, particularly those in rural areas often hurting from low populations and tax bases.

The committee's report also called for counties to get more money from the state for housing inmates wanted on state charges. Currently, sheriffs' departments get $21.25 per day. The committee says that should be bumped by $1.25 to $22.50. That would be included in the state budget.

A bill already has been filed to increase deputy sheriff pay. That would be done by adding an extra $10 fee to court orders such as subpoenas and civil summons. Sheriffs' departments already can charge $20 for a summons and $10 for a subpoena.

The money from the extra fee would be funneled through the state treasury to the Missouri Sheriffs' Association. The trade group would then be responsible for deciding what individual departments need help to supplement pay.

Platte County Associate Circuit Judge Gary Witt, who testified on behalf of the Missouri Judicial Conference, said state court fees already add up to about $300. He warned fees are often higher than the fines for the offense.

Sen. John Griesheimer, who led the Senate committee, told The Sedalia Democrat that lawmakers have a duty to increase lagging officer pay because officers are the ones responsible for enforcing lawmakers' decisions.

"We've got a problem out there that we need to solve," said Griesheimer, R-Washington.

Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs from counties throughout the state told the Senate panel that many sparsely populated, rural counties struggle to fund their departments. One deputy, who is a supervisor in his department, told the committee that he makes $28,400 and it would cost him $650 per month if he were to pay for full health insurance for his children.

The Missouri Deputy Sheriffs' Association reported that the average salary for deputies is $22,262.

Many departments also require deputies to pay for their own equipment and training. For departments in northern Missouri, that means competition with Iowa, where average pay is closer to $30,000, according to the Senate committee report.

Griesheimer's committee met four times to craft the salary and reimbursement proposals, including visits to sheriffs' departments in rural Northeast and Southeast Missouri.

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