CONYERS — Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett is asking the Board of Commissioners to increase salaries for deputies and provide other compensation in an effort to make the department more competitive and reduce turnover.
The proposed changes in pay and other compensation would have an estimated $1.55 million implementation cost for fiscal year 2014.
In announcing the proposal, Levett said he is prepared to work with commissioners in any way to implement the proposed changes.
“Our community needs to be dedicated to retaining our well-trained staff members and employees with longevity,” he said. “Investing in our deputies now will allow us to retain highly qualified and better trained personnel, who will ultimately better serve the citizens and visitors to Rockdale County. Having the capability and resources available to offer better pay and incentives for advanced training is essential to reducing the high costs associated with employee turnover, and provides the community with tenured, better-trained deputies.”
The sheriff’s proposal is based on an in-house pay and benefits study that analyzed the rate of turnover and compared starting pay rates among 57 law enforcement agencies in the metro Atlanta region.
The study found that the starting salary for a certified Rockdale deputy sheriff ranked 51st out of the 57 agencies studied. Rockdale’s starting annual salary for a certified sheriff’s deputy is $32,073, which is $3,220 less than the average for all 57 metro-Atlanta agencies included in the study. Starting annual pay for a Conyers Police Department officer is $33,040. In neighboring Newton County, starting pay for a sheriff’s deputy is $33,173.
Starting pay for a certified detention deputy is $29,973, which ranked third behind Henry and Gwinnett counties and ahead of Newton, Walton and DeKalb counties. Newton pays its detention deputies $29,943. Henry’s are the highest paid in the survey at $33,644.
Under Levett’s proposal, the RCSO would increase the starting pay for a sheriff’s deputy to $34,320. Starting pay for a detention deputy would remain the same. In addition, positions for detention deputy and sheriff’s deputy would each be separated into three pay grades.
Pay grades for investigator, corporal and sergeant would also be increased.
The changes in pay grades would move the RCSO from 51st on the starting salary comparison list to a ranking of 38th, according to the study.
The study also found that the RCSO provided less in incentive pay and benefits compared to other agencies in the study. Under Levett’s proposal, RCSO employees would be compensated for years of service in an effort to reduce pay compression, which was defined by the study as a small difference in pay between employees regardless of skills or experience. The sheriff proposes to give employees a 1 percent salary increase for each full year of service to the RCSO, up to 10 percent.
In addition, Levett proposes to give 5 percent step increases for each college degree earned. Step increases could also be earned for advanced training certifications.
Levett’s study found that a lack of pay raises during the recession, as well as increases in health insurance premiums and other factors have made the Sheriff’s Office less competitive and contributed to a higher rate of turnover.
According to the study, turnover has been increasing since 2009, with the department on track to lose more than 80 employees this year. From 2009 to July 10, 2013, 24 percent of resigning employees left to work for another law enforcement agency; 21 percent left for the private sector; 17 percent left for family reasons, such as relocation; 8 percent did not like the job; and the remaining resignations were attributed to other reasons.
According to the study, “financial savings from effective recruitment and retention can help decrease turnover rates and allow the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office to retain highly-trained and experienced deputies. In addition to the benefits of retention, the reduction in turnover will allow the sheriff, and his command staff, to focus on crime reduction and departmental operations in a more effective manner.”