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Richmond County sheriff, fire chief request employee raises

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 7:51 PM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 1:05 AM
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Fearing an improving economy may cause deputies and firefighters to seek better-paying jobs, Richmond County’s sheriff and fire chief asked the Augusta Commission on Thursday for a 5 percent raise for all their employees.



The one-time salary increase – the first in five years for either department – could result in the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office’s 755 employees receiving an extra $1.8 million in their paychecks next year. The 335 workers at the Augusta Fire Department would receive a cumulative raise of $800,000.

Though the requests seemed to win some support during an informal budget work session, City Administrator Fred Russell said an across-the-board raise among all city personnel is the preferred way to handle pay increases.

However, he said, commissioners have in the past granted public safety workers raises due to the challenges of their work and the critical need for fire and police protection in the community.

“I understand every county employee wants to be compensated, but not everyone faces the challenges my officers do,” Sheriff Richard Roundtree said in making his case to the commission.

The sheriff said his employees are paid nearly 6.5 percent below the national Consumer Price Index.

Due to a lack of local jobs, the sheriff said he has been able to retain quality peace officer candidates from local colleges, universities and Fort Gordon, but a disparity in salary among police officers has led some to research and compare their pay to their peers’ online.

“It hurts morale,” Roundtree said in presenting a $61.3 million, “fluff free” budget to the commission.

Roundtree said the 2014 numbers are 6 percent higher than last year. But he said that was an inherited budget and despite the passed-on funding, he has put every supervisor through leadership training, upgraded data systems to enhance crime-fighting intelligence and started a four-officer gang task force.

The measures have led to a 60 percent decrease in the homicide rate, 50 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, and 15 percent decrease in rapes countywide, the sheriff said.

“We do not believe in fluff,” Roundtree said. “Like I said when I took office, we are going to show you a product.”

District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason gave Roundtree’s budget his blessing, applauding the sheriff for drafting a comprehensive proposal that takes all the money allocated and shows the city “what we are getting for it.”

District 9 Commissioner Marion Williams also expressed support.

“I have heard that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is losing people fast,” Williams said. “You train them and then they leave for other places. We cannot have that.”

Williams’ observation held true as well for James, who presented a $23.5 million special-revenue budget to the commission.

“We have the best hiring and training process in the area,” James said. “So much that supervisors from the private sector are waiting for our recruits to complete their training, because our newly hired staff is screened for drugs and prepared to handle both firefighting and emergency medical tasks.”

“They’re taking them from us,” James said, pointing out to the commission that an Augusta firefighter makes a starting salary of $26,855.

That pales next to Atlanta and Savannah, each at $32,000, and Dekalb and Cobb counties, which pay $36,000 to $38,000.

The commission was not as vocal about James’ salary increase request, instead expressing support for updating outdated trucks and fire stations.

Other budget requests:

Sheriff’s Office

• 272 Tasers to continue 90 percent decrease in jail staff workers compensation claims

• 350 body cams to increase accountability

• Four vehicles for newly formed gang task force

• Expansion of South Precinct Complex

• Crime Scene Investigation truck to replace 2004 Ford F250, which has $125,000 miles

Fire Department

• $200,000 to continue physicals

• $150,000 for 25 new air tanks

• $60,000 for extrication toolsets

• $33,000 to continue fitness and wellness program

Comments (20) Add comment
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just an opinion
2840
Points
just an opinion 09/12/13 - 09:13 pm
9
0
Yes to the Sheriff's Dept. raises BUT

No property tax increase! Take the money from Chester Wheeler's Housing & Development Office. They have been poor stewards of the tax payers money. Stop lining the "consultants" pockets for a while and start lining the Deputy's .

rational thought trumps emotion
2625
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 09/12/13 - 09:32 pm
7
0
Very Much Needed

Sheriff Roundtree is doing a great job of keeping all of his campaign promises and moving the agency forward. Chief James is doing a great job of enhancing the Fire Department and raising standards. The deputies are working very hard to lower crime rates and solve problems throughout Augusta, and the numbers prove it is beginning to work. However, the RCSO continues to lose great employees as they have over the past several years due to extremely low pay for the largest full service Sheriff’s Office in the state of Georgia. Raises are easily justified for this agency along with the Fire Department when you look at comparisons to similar agencies. In fact, these salaries need to be brought in line with similar agencies ASAP in order to lower turnover which costs the county far more than if the employees were paid properly to begin with. As for “let’s just give everyone a raise”, sorry but I don’t agree. If any division/department can show that similar county departments pay more and they are having employee turnover and hiring issues, then by all means do what is necessary to solve the problems for that division. However, Public Safety is the number one priority of county government and ours (Police and Fire) has been cut in staffing several times over the past years and the salaries are very much out of line in comparison to other similar agencies. It is past time for this raise along with other needed changes to include overtime pay and decent benefits for our Public Safety Personnel.

dichotomy
36355
Points
dichotomy 09/12/13 - 10:53 pm
9
0
I'd love to give the patrol

I'd love to give the patrol cops and firemen a raise.....and we probably could if the administrator and commissioners would quit spending our money on EVERYTHING ELSE BUT THE FUNDAMENTAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES. But I'm paying 8% sales tax, my school tax just went up, my health care just went up, I'm on a fixed income that ain't going up enough to cover what they've already raised, and I'm sure the commissioners are already planning to raise property taxes again anyway.

I can hear Fred now....."Since I went double over budget on the Marble Palace and we spent WAY too much on the TEE and parking deck, and I really would still like to slide that overhead crosswalk in for Paul and the boys, the only way I can give the police and fire folks a raise is to stick it to the Southside taxPAYERS AGAIN."..........and the commissioners, in unison, nod their heads like one of those bobble head dogs in the back window of a car.

I'll make a deal with your Roundtree. You start investigating all of the bribing, illegal contributions, illegal gifts, payoffs, kickbacks from contractors, inflated prices paid for "redevelopment" properties, etc. AND YOU CAN KEEP HALF OF WHAT YOU RECOVER for pay raises for the troops. And don't kid me.....you KNOW where the dirt is.......and there IS plenty of dirt to be investigated.......so help us clean up the dirt and we can help you with pay raises.

nocnoc
47475
Points
nocnoc 09/13/13 - 05:44 am
8
0
Like I have said before

Focus on the LEO's, and quit trying to be HIGH-TECH in a Low Tech area and spend the money wisely.

BTW: I hope the 5% does not include ANY ONE that got big raises walking in the door about 8 months ago.

Riverman1
90855
Points
Riverman1 09/13/13 - 05:49 am
6
0
Priorities

Dichotomy expressed the sentiment of responsible, tax paying, citizens well. Police and fire protection should be the number one priority. When a county is safe, private enterprise will lead the way in development without tax money.

There's also another way the RCSO can gain revenue. Give them a percentage of what they can collect from past due taxes and fees. Charleston County once had such a program and brought in huge amounts. When a deputy comes knocking on your door telling you to pay your obligations it tends to get action.

my.voice
5092
Points
my.voice 09/13/13 - 06:35 am
5
0
Maybe an improving economy

Maybe an improving economy would help them KEEP their jobs? I have not had a raise in 5+ years!

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:29 am
0
0
You people who remain in ARC are defining insanity. Get out.
Unpublished

You people who remain in ARC are defining insanity. Get out.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:30 am
0
0
Move to another county. ARC cannot find absent landowners.
Unpublished

Move to another county. ARC cannot find absent landowners.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:31 am
0
0
ARC it raises taxes. ARC no locate delinquent taxes.
Unpublished

ARC it raises taxes. ARC no locate delinquent taxes.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:32 am
0
0
Wise men have been leaving ARC for the last 50 yrs and survived.
Unpublished

Wise men have been leaving ARC for the last 50 yrs and survived.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:33 am
0
0
You can do it. Free yourself from the prison camp called ARC.
Unpublished

You can do it. Free yourself from the prison camp called ARC.

soapy_725
43965
Points
soapy_725 09/13/13 - 07:34 am
0
0
Heck, the ARC guvmit might even buy your land. ARC love land.
Unpublished

Heck, the ARC guvmit might even buy your land. ARC love land.

GuyGene
1433
Points
GuyGene 09/13/13 - 07:53 am
3
2
Yes!

I don't know where the money can come from nor any of the details, I just want to see them get more money!

crkgrdn
2287
Points
crkgrdn 09/13/13 - 08:28 am
4
1
I want a raise too.

Very simple; lower my property taxes by 5%.

What will the city look like in ten years? In another story in today's paper we learn that the trees on River Walk will not be pruned.

So, raising taxes and neglecting the upkeep of property will never increase revenue. I remember the affect the malls had on the city. Not pretty. But, this time something with permanence is building...in Columbia County.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
10203
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/13/13 - 09:43 am
6
0
Retention

It costs more to train new hires repeatedly than a 5% pay raise will cost. Yes, these people are being hired away in record numbers because their backgrounds and fitness for duty have already been established at ARC expense. Until you bring the salaries in line with agencies in the area you'll continue to be a training facility and employee pipeline for other agencies at your expense. Its called COMMON SENSE!

Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/13 - 10:14 am
4
0
Prove It

We have been given not one shred of evidence that Richmond County deputies are leaving the department en masse to go work elsewhere. We need names and numbers, solid statistics, before we can believe this urban myth. Just because Roundtree says it does not make it so.

Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/13 - 10:16 am
3
0
Fluff

“It hurts morale,” Roundtree said.

Funny, after Roundtree took office, the press releases from the department said morale was improving because of all the new, progressive ideas Roundtree was bringing to the table.

Watermedic
298
Points
Watermedic 09/13/13 - 10:39 am
4
0
nocnoc I agree. The raises

nocnoc I agree.

The raises should not be across the board!

The ones who recieved the big raises and promotions should not be included in this.

Also I would hope that employee evaluations are taken into account. If they were not recommended for a raise, why give them one?

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
10203
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/13/13 - 11:00 am
4
0
Proof

The industry I work in has been hiring from RCSO and RCFD for years and continues to. Yes, as young single people they start there, but as they grow older, get married and start families the pay and benefits don't add up. They leave for better paying jobs on both sides of the river in the private sector, and who can blame them!!!
Watermedic, I agree, evaluations should be taken into account on the raises as long as the evaluations are done in a nonpreferential manner and reviewed by a third party.

Sweet son
11104
Points
Sweet son 09/13/13 - 11:07 am
4
1
Yes Roundtree compare apples to apples

Tell us what officers make in Jefferson, Burke, Columbia and Aiken Counties make. Also tell us where the officers are going; you too Chief James.

bclicious
756
Points
bclicious 09/13/13 - 02:27 pm
4
0
Apples to Apples

The pay and benefits package at CCSO is far superior to that of RCSO. As for Jefferson, Burke, Warren, Mcduffie, and Lincoln counties; I would say that they are making peanuts, but it is more like a peanut in comparison. I am not saying that they are bad departments, but many of friends who work at these departments are often a bit jealous of my salary and benefits.

As for losing deputies to other areas, it's just part of the business. On one side of the argument, you will always lose deputies for many reasons: desire to live in a different part of GA, desire to be in a smaller or larger department, desire to be in a department with more upward mobility, or a desire to be in a department with career opportunities in a different area of law enforcement (forensics, K-9, traffic, community policing team, SWAT, narcotics, investigations, etc). Literally, no matter how much you pay, deputies will always leave.

On the other side of the argument; RCSO needs to revise it's salary charts to match it's call volume. RCSO's call volume and population; when compared to several suburbs of Atlanta, and other major cities in GA (Macon, Savannah, Columbus, Gwinnett, etc) just does not add up. So, yes the raises that are proposed need to be based solely on merit, but long term, the richmond county commission needs to ultimately revise it's salary tables across the board. This would be an administrative pay raise as opposed to a merit raise. So, 2 raises are actually needed.

Lastly; I know that there will be some yahoo blogger who will come along shortly and state, "If those darn deputies don't like their salary, then they should just leave! No one forced those people to join RCSO, and no one is forcing them to stay!" Well, that's just not good enough. Folks, if you want the best, than you have to pay the best. It's as simple as that.

kissofdeath
474
Points
kissofdeath 09/13/13 - 02:55 pm
2
3
Pay raise should be the last

Pay raise should be the last issue addressed. First he get his department in order.However,Sheriff Roundtree need to be focus weeding out these bias deputies who racial profiling pulling cars over when no traffic law violation has been committed.And he need to revamp policies an procedure an stop his deputies from speeding through streets wit no blue light on,kids are out here. Sheriff Roundtree is looking more like a one- term Sheriff.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
10203
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/13/13 - 03:05 pm
3
0
Someone's kissed off!!

bdlicious is correct, compare RCSD with CCSD or Columbia SC or Charleston or Savannah or Atlanta, but you have to compare it to a similar size with a similar call volume. Comparing RCSD to Burke or Jefferson Co is like comparing a hot dog to Filet Mignon!!

Little Lamb
48049
Points
Little Lamb 09/13/13 - 03:36 pm
3
1
Best

bclicious posted:

Folks, if you want the best, than you have to pay the best. It's as simple as that.

We can't afford the best. Thanks to the wasteful city spending on luxuries such as the TEE Center, Lucy Laney Museum of Black History, Augusta Museum, Augusta Mini-Theater, Downtown Development Authority, Marble Palace renovation, Paine College Heal Center, Augusta Symphony refurbishing of the Miller Theater, ANIC funding, and more pork than you can shake a stick at, all we can afford is "good enough."

specsta
6776
Points
specsta 09/13/13 - 09:10 pm
1
1
Don't Forget the Firefighters

From the article - "The commission was not as vocal about James’ salary increase request, instead expressing support for updating outdated trucks and fire stations."

Firefighters provide a lifesaving role in the community - the importance of this department cannot be emphasized enough and they should get whatever equipment the Chief is requesting. Updated trucks, fire stations, air tanks, extrication tools, etc. protect and save lives. To see such lackluster support from the Commission is appalling.

Many of the requests from the Sheriff's Office seem to be wish list items - 350 body cams and even more new vehicles is not going to protect citizens at any higher level. They just got new cars, new paint jobs, a license plate scanner, new headquarters, new street patrol uniforms. What else is next?

Everybody has to cut back in this economy. But if given a choice, I would funnel money first to the firefighters. They put their lives on the line too, and deserve some recognition and additional funding.

QuickDraw
62
Points
QuickDraw 09/14/13 - 08:07 pm
0
0
I Support the Raises but.......

The quality of training has to improve for the fire service for Augusta Fire Department. This tactic of asking for raises is simply to get some of the heat off of Chief James. The Augusta Fire Department is 15 to 20 years behind from where they should be now with qualifications and training. Folks as it stands right now the newly hired firefighters are not getting the required training and qualifications they should get before being placed into the fire houses. Throughout the years certain firefighters have received bigger raises than others and this has caused major problems within the department. The simple solution would be to rewrite the job descriptions for all jobs in the fire department and then establish appropriate pay grades and percentage of raise for those positions. Example: If an officer is required certain qualifications than he or she should be given the opportunity to receive those qualifications but one important note the department has to provide that opportunity for the individual and that individual should be compensated for getting the required certifications for the job description.

The next biggest problem is that the training division needs to improve on the quality of training they provide. Simple solution for that is to have qualified personnel in those positions to perform the training. Augusta Fire Department does not currently have that at this moment. Again this is not those individuals fault. It falls on the administration (Chief James). Where did he come from? (Training Division). Chief James was in the training division for 12 years and nothing was accomplished. This is why everything is the way it is now and it will continue until change takes place. Folks if your curious about this information just go to one of the fire stations and ask the firefighters they will tell you. Another tidbit: go to some of the other departments in the CSRA and ask those firefighters about there training. I promise you will get different answers from 1 department to the next. I learned along time ago if your going to be the big cheese for any organization you simply have to put your money where your mouth is. Another words show me. It all starts with Leadership from the top to the bottom. Folks don't be fooled by Chief James's sales tactics he is a professional at talking out both ends of his mouth.

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