Florence County sheriff wants raises for officers, staff
FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone asked for the county council’s help Thursday morning to make his office’s pay more competitive with other departments in the state.
“Members of council, obviously, you can see what we’ve been through,” Boone said after he played a video celebrating the lives of two fallen officers: Florence police Sgt. Terrance Carraway and Florence County Sheriff’s Investigator Farrah Turner. “And one thing that I have to say is that we’re very fortunate in Florence County that y’all have taken care of us.”
Boone said his office had some of the best equipment of any office in the region. He asked that the council continue to work with the sheriff’s office to provide for its officers and staff.
“You know, financially, these men and women will give their lives for you as well as anybody else including those that visit here,” Boone continued. “We have detention officers who take home about $340 a week. We have deputies which take home about $400 a week.”
Many of the officers, Boone said, work second jobs to make ends meet. Those second jobs, he added, take the officers away from their families even more.
“We’re losing our good people,” Boone said. “Not only are you losing that person, but we’re almost like a steppingstone in that we train very well. We invest a lot of money in these deputies so that when they go on to somewhere else, not only do we lose that person, we lose the training as well.”
Boone, who has served as Florence County’s sheriff since his 2004 election to the position, told the council that one of his officers recently had left the department to work for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office because that office offered more money. Boone said Georgetown had agreed to let the officer live in Florence and drive one of its cruisers back and forth to work each day.
“They just can’t afford it,” Boone said. “These people need to be taken care of.”
Boone said the sheriff’s office needs its salaries be more competitive with other departments, such as the city of Myrtle Beach.
“These folks have come to me, and now, I’m coming to you,” Boone said. “I would ask that any concerns you have about me, pick up the phone and call me, I’ll meet with you personally and we’ll work this out. I think it [the raise] is needed. There’s no better time than now.”
Several members of the council, including chairman Kent Caudle, secretary/chaplin Waymon Mumford and councilmen H. Steven DeBerry IV, James Schofield and Jason Springs, said they were amenable to a proposed raise but added that the council was hampered by the laws in place.
DeBerry, the chair of the justice and public safety committee of the council, added that after the events of Oct. 3, he had asked Florence County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith to work toward providing a raise that would make the sheriff’s office the highest paid in the state. He added that the process to find a way to make a raise possible was ongoing.
As Caudle explained, the council has two options to fund a proposed raise for the sheriff’s office: raising revenues or lowering expenses. Raising revenues, he added, could mostly be accomplished by raising property taxes, something he didn’t like but was willing to do in this instance.
Schofield added that the county has run a pretty lean operation and so there weren’t that many areas available to lower expenses.
The council is hamstrung by two actions of the state government when it comes to raising revenues by increasing the millage on properties in the county: Act 388 of 2006 and the decreasing Local Government Fund provided by the state government.
Act 388 caps the ability of counties and municipalities to raise the property millage with a formula based on population growth and the Consumer Price Index throughout the United States. Currently, Florence County can only increase the millage by 1.5 mills. To increase the salaries for the sheriff’s office, an increase of at least 5 mills is needed.
The act has drawn criticism from other areas, including the state’s chamber of commerce. Because of the cap, in order to increase revenue, governments have increasingly taxed non-owner-occupied property.
The Local Government Fund decreased following the Great Recession and has not returned to previous levels despite the economic recovery that followed.
A meeting between the county council, Boone and the local legislative delegation is being planned so the delegation can learn of the need to change Act 388 to allow increases in the millage for emergency services.
Florence County’s legislative delegation consists of state Sens. Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. (R), Kent Williams (D), Ronnie Sabb (D) and Kevin Johnson (D) and state Reps. Terry Alexander (D), Phillip Lowe (R), Jay Jordan (R), Roger Kirby (D) and Robert Williams (D).
Alexander said he is in favor of changing the caps created by the bill. The former Florence County councilman said the bill was hurting local governments. He added that when the bill was passed, the General Assembly thought it was going to be a great bill, but it has begun to hurt local governments.
Lowe said he would like to look at the bill again. He spoke of the negative effects the bill has had on businesses as described by the state’s chamber of commerce.
Kirby said many legislators from rural areas, including himself, want to take a look at ways to improve the act. He added that the legislature will need a supermajority to change the act, and that will be difficult, because the urban areas of the state are not feeling the same impact that rural counties such as Florence area.
Robert Williams said he will support any effort to increase pay for state and local employees. He said the cost of living has been increasing, and employees need raises to keep up.