By Tony Parra
Despite a budget crunch, Roosevelt County Commissioners relented on Tuesday and agreed to a hourly pay increase of $2 for certified Roosevelt County Sheriff’s department deputies.
The starting pay of $10.82 for deputies will increase to $12.82, effective as of the start of the next pay period on Oct. 12. Non-certified deputy salaries will remain at $9.22 per hour.
For three consecutive county meetings, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s department deputies have been requesting an increase in pay. The original request was for a $3 increase for the sergeant and all of the sheriff’s deputies. Commissioner Gene Creighton suggested a compromise of $2 and four out of five commissioners voted in favor of it.
As of Sept. 21, the starting pay for a certified police officer for the Portales police department was $11.53, according to Lonnie Berry. The starting pay for a certified sheriff’s deputy for Curry County was $11.27, according to Curry County Undersheriff Doug Bowman.
At full capacity, Roosevelt County Sheriff Tom Gossett would have one sergeant and nine deputies. However, by Oct. 11 there is a chance the department will be down to four deputies on the street, according to deputy Waylan Rains. He said there are two deputies in the National Guard who are not scheduled to return until January of 2006, plus two deputies are scheduled to resign by Oct. 11. There is also one position vacant.
Commissioners and sheriff’s deputies are banking on the money coming from the salaries of the vacancies and the additional money from the two gross receipt taxes which will be imposed on January. Commissioner Tom Clark, who was opposed to the pay increase being done Tuesday as opposed to in the spring during the budget session, said a problem with the increase is that the commissioners are obligated to the salary increases even if it creates a budget deficit and causes more budget problems in the future.
“I’d like to reiterate that I am opposed to it,” Clark said. “It’s not appropriate at this time. It should be addressed during the budget session. It was not addressed this way.”
Commissioners Creighton and Dennis Lopez said advertising needs to be accomplished on a state level as opposed to only Roosevelt and Curry counties.
“Most of the other counties are in trouble,” Creighton said about mill levys being tapped out and the maximum amount of property taxes charged to county residents to make up for the budget deficits. “That’s were we are heading if we can’t balance the budget. We want to avoid it, if possible.”
Deputies took the time to shake hands with commissioners and thanking them for the raise.
Commissioners addressed a problem with Roosevelt County Fairgrounds property by voting to have language added to contracts which would strip the $200 deposit of those who use the property if they do not return their keys by 4 p.m. of the next business day after use of the property. Roosevelt County Administrator Charlene Hardin said people who reserved buildings were not returning the keys to the building they reserved.
The commissioners are also considering adding an additional $50 fee to re-key the building people use if the problem persists.