Deputy raises approved

Santa Rosa Sheriff’s deputies could expect raises as early as Aug. 1 thanks to a reallocation of up to $290,000.

Santa Rosa County Commissioners voted to allocate the sum for 2017 as well as up to $1.6 million from the 2018 budget toward one time raises for the sheriff’s deputies.

The $290,000 is part of roughly $480,000 of unused funds by the sheriff’s office from the 2016 budget that were returned to the county.

Sheriff Bob Johnson said the proposal by commission chairman Rob Williamson to give them the $290,000 was a surprise.

“When we gave back that $483,000 then Sheriff Hall and I made a point that we weren’t going to ask for any of that back,” he said. “This lets us start the pay raises a little earlier. That is good for everybody. The healthier the sheriff’s office is the better for Santa Rosa County.”

Johnson made a presentation to commissioners Jan. 23 showing the discrepancy in pay between Santa Rosa officers and neighboring jurisdictions, in some cases as much as an $8,000 difference.

The raises will amount to roughly 10 percent for uniformed officers, but Johnson said every officer will not see that exact number.

“The chairman made a valid point. He said we are going to give you this money to you and let you spend it as you see fit,” Johnson said. “Not everybody in the sworn ranks will get a 10 percent raise. We are going to get this money into the hands of the deputies that need it the most, the ones that have started in the last few years.”

Williamson proposed early last week that the 2018 raises could be budget neutral if the county reallocated funds from the new local option sales tax toward what he estimated to be $1.6 million in capital expenditures elsewhere in the budget. He said that would free up the necessary funds.

Commissioner Don Salter agreed.

“I read several emails about be careful and don’t use your half cent sales tax for recurring costs but that’s not what we told the public,” he said. “We told the public in order to get some relief for our sheriff’s department we needed to have the half cent sales tax to offset some of the capital costs that would free up some other money to go toward raises. When people talk about that half cent sales tax that is exactly what the referendum said. We said that a portion of it would go toward public safety.”

Funds from the collection of the tax, which started in January, will not become available to the county until April, Salter said.

In other action the commission voted to:

  • Allocate $50,000 for a tourism economic impact study
  • Request bids for a study  and strategy plan for potential commercial development in the county
  • Approved a new fee schedule for the rental of public spaces, excluding open park spaces.

As seen in the Feb. 2 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe for as little as $38 per year.

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