Budget means raises for sheriff staff

By Andy Winemiller - awinemiller@mtairynews.com

DOBSON — Surry County Sheriff’s Office employees will get raises as a result of a budget passed by county commissioners.

More than a week ago, the Surry County Board of Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, passed a $77 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year which includes $348,750 for the implementation of a new salary plan for the sheriff’s office.

Raises for sworn officers, detention center staff and administrative employees at the sheriff’s office have been a matter discussed in Surry County for a number of years.

Former Sheriff Graham Atkinson had told commissioners his department saw record turnover, with deputies and other staff leaving his office for higher pay. Some left for higher-paying law enforcement jobs, and many made moves into the private sector.

Atkinson and county staff performed a salary study, which found that 20-percent raises were needed to bring the Surry County office in line with the pay offered by comparable law enforcement agencies.

New Sheriff Jimmy Combs said that as a result of the budget for the upcoming year, the starting salary for a deputy will increase from $28,584 to $33,072 on July 1. The starting salary for a detention officer will move from $26,400 to $31,704.

“We talked to the commissioners a couple months ago and explained, because of our salaries we are finding it difficult to compete with surrounding agencies to hire the best and brightest in the competitive market,” explained Combs. “We were not only having difficulty hiring for patrol and detention, but also with retention of well-trained veteran officers and staff because of better-paying jobs and better working conditions.”

Combs said the pay increases will benefit his office and the county’s residents.

“It will give us the ability to hire and retain competent and qualified personnel and lay a foundation for the future of the sheriff’s office,” noted Combs.

The 2017-18 fiscal year’s budget was the first Combs has handled as sheriff, though he was highly involved in the budget process as the office’s chief deputy.

“This was the first big budgetary challenge I have faced as your sheriff,” added Combs.

The budget also funds needs other than those related to personnel.

Combs said he and Atkinson had asked for $300,000 to fund the purchase of 10 new patrol vehicles, and commissioners funded five new Ford Explorers.

The sheriff noted the vehicles will not add to his department’s fleet of vehicles. They will replace older vehicles, which can then be retired from service.

As a result of the budget, the department also will be able to purchase another vehicle for use at the jail, where staff are often required to transport inmates to other facilities throughout the state.

With additional monies included in the budget, the office will also be able to equip all of its marked cars with in-car cameras, or dashcams, said Combs.

The nine camera systems will cost the county taxpayers about $48,000, according to the budget request submitted to the county board.

“The board was willing to take a hard look at the needs of this office,” said Combs. “I appreciate their support and the working relationship we have with our county commissioners.”

By Andy Winemiller


Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.

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