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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Angling for a raise

Jailer asks for increase in starting pay

By Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

Carter County Jailer R.W. Boggs told fiscal court on Monday night that part of his job was to “sound the alarm” when the jail might face an issue that could threaten their ability to operate. Right now, he said, the jail is in danger of losing staff because of their rate of pay.

Boggs noted that while the Carter County Detention Center is among the most state of the art facilities in the state, with federal contracts to match, their employees are among the lowest paid jailers in the state. He noted that the new casino facility coming to Ashland will be starting employees at $16 an hour – three dollars an hour more than the jail’s starting rate of $13 – and that many retail jobs already have a higher starting rate. In addition, he noted, those jobs have a lot less stress.
“We’re locked in there all day too,” he said. “We just have a little more freedom of movement.”

Boggs came to fiscal court to ask for a $2 per hour increase in starting pay, and a pay raise of at least $2 an hour for all staff to match the proposed starting pay bump. A small number of senior employees would receive a $3 increase under Boggs proposed pay rate increase.

While it still isn’t as much as the casino plans to start employees at, he said it helps him stay at least somewhat competitive. While he said his employees, and potential future employees, might not be willing to drive the extra distance for $1 an hour, “they will drive for $3 an hour.”

Boggs said he had already discussed the issue with the county treasurer, and the increased cost from the county for retirement and benefits would be around $200,000. But, he noted, his department has already brought more than $350,000 in extra revenue into the county in federal contracts and immigration transports.

“We brought in 350, and we’re asking for the 200,” Boggs said.

County Treasurer Beth Justice confirmed to the court that Boggs has contributed that amount to the county, and that the fiscal court has not yet allotted those funds.

But while fiscal court said they weren’t necessarily opposed to the increase, judge executive Brandon Burton and several magistrates wanted to review the plan and the numbers before committing.

“I’m not opposed,” said magistrate Chris Huddle. “But I need to see the numbers.”

A number of jail staff on site interjected and discussed the issue among themselves as the judge and magistrates considered the issue and asked questions.

Magistrate Millard Cordle asked what would happen if the county lost their federal contracts, and Boggs noted that if that happened the county would be in much more serious financial straits than the $2 an hour difference would make, adding that it was unlikely to happen given their record, but more likely to happen if they began losing their experienced staff.

If it did happen, he said, the county is still statutorily mandated to fund their jail – unlike some other county departments – but that currently they are almost entirely self-sufficient. The county currently provides only $600,000 of the jail’s budget.

That, Boggs reminded the court, is a rarity in county government, where many jails present a serious financial burden for their counties.

Sergeant Joe Littleton, who works on federal prison transports, said that while his work brings money into the county, he still makes less money than jail staff in Boyd or Greenup Counties, neither of which bring in the sort of federal revenue Carter County does.

But the magistrates were not fully swayed by the arguments of Boggs and his staff.

Another concern expressed by magistrates and the judge executive was how to deal with the inevitable call from other departments who would also want a raise if jail staff were granted their


But Boggs said that even with the increase the jail staff would still make less than most other departments. He noted that both the Sheriff and the road department had been granted raises to help them with employee retention, adding that he didn’t begrudge them those raises. They were necessary to keep up with inflation Boggs said, but so are the raises he is asking for.
“If you approved 100% of what I’m asking for, we still won’t (make more than) any other department,” Boggs said.

If others came around asking for raises because the jail received one, he said, he’d advise the county to remind those departments they had received increases recently and had higher starting pay and pay rates than the jail did even with the proposed increase.

Magistrate Millard Cordle said he was willing to vote on the issue during that meeting, but since his colleagues were not he made a motion to set a date for a work session to determine the amount of any raise and to set a date to vote on it in a special meeting following the work session.

Magistrate Derrick McKinney also seemed to back the request.
“I’m going to ask one question,” McKinney said. “They’ve got $350,000? They’re only asking for $200,000. Why can’t we go ahead and approve this?”
“Because, we ain’t got enough votes,” Cordle answered. “We’ve just got two people. That’s just the way it is.”

The other three magistrates and judge executive noted again that they were not necessarily opposed to an increase in starting rate and associated rate adjustments, but that they needed time to look at the numbers and consider the impact.

In other action the court heard from Sarah Cordle regarding a desire by her Future Problem Solving team to consider expanding recycling options for the county.

The court also moved to take East River Road into the county road system, with Huddle voting aye but noting that they would need to look into the legality of the move and make sure that state maps were updated to place the road under county rather than city jurisdiction.

In other road news the county moved to approve a request for county road crews to provide labor to pave Pine Ridge Road, a road within the county road system, with costs for materials to be covered by a private resident who lives along the road.

The county also moved to approve reappointments to the Rattlesnake Ridge Water Board, and moved to approve the payment of invoices on the Rattlesnake Ridge water improvement project, with payment to be made from Civic Development Block Grant funds.

In tax rate news, the real estate tax rate will be dropping slightly. The compensating rate for real property decreased from .076 last year to .075 this year. While the county could have attempted to keep the existing tax rate, it would have required a public hearing. Accepting the compensating rate does not require a hearing.

The compensating rate for tangibles did not change, and will remain steady at .086 per hundred dollars of valuation.

The court also approved a request from the sheriff to begin the process of pulling the sheriff’s department out of the FADE agreement and providing the law enforcement task force with 30 day notice of their intention to leave.

Finally, the court didn’t have to wait long to see if the jail’s request would have a compounding effect.

E911 director Joe Lambert noted that his employees start at $13 as well, and that “it would be an injustice to (his) employees not to ask for the same (rate as the jail.)”

“I know what’s going to happen if the jail gets that raise,” Lambert said of the reaction from his staff to being the only department not to receive a pay increase.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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