A gallery of uniformed deputies, plainclothes officers and administrative staff filed into the Dawson County Board of Commissioner's meeting room on Thursday to see if budget demands made by the sheriff to increase pay would be approved.
While none of his employees spoke during the public comment portion of the budget hearing, an attorney for Sheriff Billy Carlisle addressed the commission, saying the proposed salary increases planned in the county's 2015 budget are inadequate.
"Some issues have been resolved and others remain. The proposed salary increases are really the crux of why the sheriff is here today," said attorney Steven Liebel.
Earlier this summer, Carlisle said he would fight the commission on behalf of his employees, who have not received raises in more than six years, an issue he said that has been detrimental to his department.
On Thursday, Liebel said the county's proposed 2015 budget spending plan, which allocates about $6.5 million for the sheriff's office, needs to be revisited to give the sheriff more control of his department's funding.
"What we want to do is to take control of our personnel budget and benefits and allocate them the way the sheriff wants to allocate them," Liebel said. "And we would like that the county administer the functions once we've set those salaries and those benefits."
Carlisle said he needs about $230,000 more than the county's budgeted amount to get his employees' salaries where they need to be.
A portion he said could come from the $205,000 of fund balance planned to be used to replace 11 aging patrol cars.
Carlisle said he would opt to take those funds to increase pay and wait for special purpose local option sales tax revenue to purchase cars.
"Patrol cars are not going to do me any good if I don't have the deputies to drive them," he said.
Those raises would be in addition to the 2 percent cost of living adjustments for all full and part time staff, as well as salary increases based on a recent pay study that showed Dawson County salaries below the recommended minimum pay level compared to neighboring jurisdictions.
The $21.66 million spending plan was approved as presented in a 4-0 vote, but with the premise that Carlisle and the county would continue working together to resolve his salary issues.
On Friday, Carlisle said he believed they could find a way to repair the discrepancies.
"I think the meeting was progressive. We didn't get where we wanted to be at but we took another step forward of coming together," he said. "I think we all probably need to sit down and discuss this more in detail about it."
Also at the meeting:
The commission voted to use about $72,000 currently available to give employees cost of living adjustments initially planned to be distributed in the 2015 budget.
"Those employees would receive retro pay for five pay periods and then their regular pay would be increased by the 2 percent for the remainder of the year," said County Manager Cindy Campbell. "They would receive a lump sum payout for those retro periods that have already passed."
The increases are for regular fulltime and part time employees.