Coffee County Sheriff Chad Partin

If the Coffee County Commission approves the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the sheriff’s department will finally see pay raises, after years of unsuccessful requests by the sheriff’s department.

The boost in pay will be received by the corrections officers working at the jail. When fully staffed, about 77 jail guards provide security for the facility.

The FY20 begins July 1. The county commission is expected to vote on the budget on Tuesday.

The proposed budget raises the maximum hourly wage of corrections officers from $12.22 to $14.28.

Sheriff Chad Partin hopes the pay raises will help reduce turnover and cut overtime pay expenses. Partin also expressed hopes that the department, which has been shorthanded for years, will finally see full staff.

According to Partin, 77 corrections officers are supposed to work at the jail; however that number has averaged around 60.

The inadequate pay for corrections officers has often been mentioned as a reason for the high turnover and insufficient staffing over the last two years.

Coffee County corrections officers are paid $3 to $4 less per hour compared to their counterparts in surrounding counties, officials say.

 

How will the pay raises be accomplished?

Boosting the paychecks for the jail guards will cost about $480,000.

But Partin is not asking for additional funds compared with the original budget for the current fiscal year.

The combined amount for the current fiscal year – including expenses for sheriff’s department, jail and the workhouse – was $8,760,636. Those same expenses for the upcoming FY20 amount to $8,734,104, and these costs include the pay raises for corrections officers.

Closing the workhouse, also referred to as the jail annex, has led to the department cutting costs. The original workhouse budget for the current fiscal year was $520,000. Closing the doors of the facility has helped Partin to shift the annex dollars and use those funds for boosting the jail guards’ salaries.

The reduced jail population has allowed for closing the annex. According to Partin, if the number of inmates increases, the annex could be open for operations.

In 2017 and 2018, the jail population regularly exceeded 400, the capacity of the main jail. The annex, which provides another 38 beds, had to be used.

Over the last several months, on average, there have been fewer than 350 inmates. That has made closing the annex – at a savings of about half a million dollars – possible.

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at ecawley@tullahomanews.com.