With officers sitting behind him in support, Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider on Thursday requested Loudon County Commission reconsider his initial request for more staffing.
“After talking with my team I think it’s not fair to them to not get what I was asking for reasonably,” Guider said during the meeting when the county budget committee unveiled to the full commission the budget for 2019-20.
“Again, I think it’s negotiable,” he said. “One thing that we lacked in our first negotiation was the compensation issue, trying to get my people’s pay up to at least comparable to Lenoir City and Loudon. We need to be competitive and I don’t want to lose any more people. We’ve got good people and I think that needs to be addressed as well as the positions.”
Guider recently used social media to detail his request and ask for community support.
The initial request included 36 jailers as recommended by County Technical Assistance Services, along with six patrol deputies and the necessary supplies, equipment for each. Guider later agreed to 21 jailers, a figure he said he would prefer to not go below.
The current budget committee recommendation for approval is 15 corrections officers, three patrol deputies and one vehicle.
“I just want it to be a safe environment for my team and even out on the patrol the citizens’ everyday call volume that we have, we need help, we need additional deputies out there,” Guider said.
He noted pay increases were needed to help lessen staff turnover. In 18 months, LCSO has lost 11 officers, with seven going to Lenoir City Police Department.
“You guys do not really get enough accolades until someone needs you, and we commend you for what you’re doing,” David Meers, county commissioner, said. “The courthouse, the fire, other factors that really put — commissioner (Henry) Cullen made the statement, we’ve tried to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
Meers questioned the possibility of increasing the litigation tax to bring in extra revenue.
Requested wage adjustments amount to an increase of $328,871 over last year’s budget, according to data presented at the meeting.
Meeting Guider’s original request for raises, additional patrol deputies and jailers would require at least a 20-cent tax increase, Van Shaver, county commissioner, said.
“Does the majority of this body want to raise the property taxes that much for this purpose? And that’s what we’re ultimately going to have to come to terms with,” Shaver said.
Guider noted training newcomers is more expensive than retaining staff.
“Most of the replacements — I hate to say it like that — have stayed so far,” Jimmy Davis, LCSO chief deputy, said. “I’ve got two on the bubble right now waiting to see how this goes to be perfectly honest with you. Waiting to walk out the door and say, ‘I can go somewhere else’.”
Henry Cullen, commission chairman, asked if a compromise was possible.
Guider said he wanted to meet with commission again to “crunch numbers.”
“The raises are the issue,” Cullen said. “We put three road deputies and a car, or three additional personnel and 15 for the jail. If we were to go the full 21.9 (cents) we’d take the tax rate at 2.0225, which would be more than a 10 percent increase. Is there any room where we could sit down and maybe split some of it this budget year, some next year? What can we do to make this palatable for the taxpayers and to take care of the law enforcement officers?”
The budget committee will meet with Guider on Tuesday before a June 17 public hearing on the budget. Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said the June 17 date is subject to change depending on how the meeting goes with Guider.
“I think it’s best to try to get it correct and not worry about a couple of deadlines late in June and if we have to go into the first week or so of July then I think that’s the best thing to do to make sure all issues are addressed appropriately,” Matthew Tinker, county commissioner, said.
Commissioners Gary Whitfield and Kelly Littleton-Brewster agreed.
“Nobody’s prouder of our tax rate than me,” Bradshaw said. “... The same time, our man’s done his job for 30-something years asking for help and I think we owe it to him to at least address it and look at it again and have that opportunity. I don’t envy commission at all.”