After LaGrange approves police raises, sheriff asks Troup County Commission to do the same

Published 10:30 am Thursday, June 22, 2023

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The city of LaGrange officially raised the starting pay for its police officers substantially on Tuesday night, and Sheriff James Woodruff is asking the Troup County Commission to do the same.

Woodruff said he’s down 22 deputies and 18 detention officers, and he said eight told him Tuesday that they were leaving to go to other agencies, with most of those planning to go to the LaGrange Police Department. The LPD’s new starting pay for officers is $60,000, with current officers receiving an $8,000 raise. Troup County Sheriff’s Office deputies currently make $44,138.64 a year, while jailers make $38,067.12.

“Today, I found out we eight people leaving the sheriff’s office to go to LPD or to other agencies for more money,” Woodruff said. “… So really, we have about 40 openings at the sheriff’s office.”

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Woodruff recommended two options for raising salaries to the Troup County Commission. Under both options, Woodruff said he will give back four budgeted positions that the Troup County Sheriff’s Office has been unable to fill, a savings of $267,872. One is to raise the salary of all 167 TCSO employees by $6,000, which totals $1,002,000. After removing the four positions, that would result in giving back $267,872, which equals $734,128.

The second option is to raise deputy salaries by $6,000, which totals $522,000, and to raise detention officer salaries by $4,500, totaling $310,500. Eleven administrators would also receive 5% raises, totaling $21,905.35. Those raises would total $586,533.35, once the four positions ($267,872 in savings) are removed.

Out of the two options, much of the discussion the remainder of the meeting focused on the $586,533.35 possibility. County Manager Eric Mosley noted that figure does not include benefits, which will likely cost another 25%, which might make the total closer to $750,000.

As part of his presentation, Woodruff provided numbers showing regional pay from other agencies.

Of the 12 agencies Woodruff listed, only Harris County had lower pay for deputies ($42,993.60) and jailers ($39,202.80).

“If the city of LaGrange has raised its salary rate to what’s on this paper, what are these other cities and counties going to do?” asked Commissioner Morris Jones.

“Lose people,” Woodruff said.

“But they can’t all go to the city of LaGrange,” Jones said.

“Used to people were worried about retirement, they worried about benefits. Now, our deputies are younger in age, and they are worried about take-home money,” Woodruff said.

County Manager Eric Mosley was researching the totals during the meeting and sent the LDN a spreadsheet showing sheriff’s office pay at surrounding agencies.

Through 18 agencies, the average salaries was $46,954.15, with the highest being Fulton County ($59,999.68) and the lowest was Dodge County ($32,240).

Woodruff also showed that through sheriff’s office revenue, the work release program and the jail’s revenue that TCSO is responsible for $870,631.41 in revenue for the county.

“With 22 openings right now, the first thing I’m going to have to do is pull our team off the interstate,” Woodruff said. “…It’s more important that they are in the county answering calls for service for the people who elected them … All we can respond to is emergency calls to protect the people of Troup County. It’s putting us at a terrible disadvantage.”

Commissioner Lewis Davis said the commission has paid for two pay studies in recent years and has budgeted for a 2.5 percent raise this year.

“I understand the city of LaGrange’s situation. They are putting a heck of a burden on the rest of this area,” Davis said.

Mosley asked Woodruff how he recommends the county comes up with the money.

“I have no idea,” Woodruff said. “I just know we’ve got to have $586,000 to keep some of our people from leaving or we’re going to be in a mess.”

“Well, there’s only two ways to do it, I believe. We’ve either got to cut services or raise the millage rate,” Davis said.

The county was planning to lower the millage rate from 10.560 to 9.923. Woodruff was speaking during the second of three public hearings on the millage rate.

Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead threw out the idea of not lowering it as far to afford the raises. The proposed millage includes the reduction of the sanitation millage rate from .637 to 0. Mosley said the sanitation millage brought in $1.9 million this year.

“When we got into the discussion on curbside pickup, that was one of the comments the commissioners were basing on, was that the sanitation on the millage was going to be reduced back off of their bill,” Jones said. “Your word is your word. To me, you’re going to have to find it somewhere else.”

Davis said the county needs to help the sheriff’s office, but what will happen if they do approve the raises?

“What about the fire department? What about the marshal’s office? Do you think this train is going to stop here?” Davis said.

Mosley said if LaGrange and Troup County raise their pay, then it will put additional strain on Hogansville and West Point.

“This is the gift that keeps on giving,” Davis said, referring that once raises are given the county must be able to budget for those raises in the coming years.

Commissioner Patrick Crews said this will create a budgeting challenge, calling it an inopportune time.

“We just voted to lower the millage rate last year, and we promised the citizens we’d remove the sanitation tax this year, so it’s going to be very hard for us to go back and say we want to raise the millage rate again after what we had just promised,” Crews said.

There was also discussion on the work release program, which Woodruff made an argument to continue.

The commission wanted to ensure LaGrange passed its raises, since both meetings were going on at the same time, and then wanted to digest all of the information before making any kind of decision.