KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knox County sheriff demanded pay raises for the department’s deputies at the county commission meeting on Monday night.
Sheriff Tom Spangler is asking for a 30 percent pay raise for correctional and patrol officers ranked captain and/or below. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs proposed an eight percent raise in his county budget proposal.
The sheriff originally asked for the raise over a month ago, to tackle staffing shortages at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s the hard work of putting together, trying to find something that is competitive with agencies in our surrounding area. I’m hearing, already, from other counties that are getting ready to pass their budget and so, if we take this proposal that’s come from the mayor, we’re going to fall behind again,” Spangler said.
Jacobs said the staffing issue is not unique to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
“If you look at the labor markets, this is everywhere. Sheriff Spangler talks about a public safety crisis, we also deal with an ambulance crisis, my daughters are both nurses, we’re dealing with a hospital health care worker crisis,” Jacobs said. “So, it’s all across the board and I wish that more money could solve all of that but I don’t think it will.”
He said tax increases are the only way they could fit the 30 percent raise into the budget, which he is not willing to do.
“We’re talking about tax increases, which I will fight as much as I can, what this would do is if we had a tax increase to raise salaries for deputies, we’re only raising salaries for other general county employees three percent, teachers four percent, so we would see a pretty large substantial tax increase,” Jacobs said.
Spangler said his presentation was in part to show the county commission how dangerous a deputy’s job can be.
“I heard one commissioner up there make the comment that we’re no different than any other county employee. Let me say this, and let me very clear about that. Every employee in this county is important, but when you have to go out on a daily basis and answer a call that could involve a child being involved in a crash, a 12-year-old hanging themselves on Christmas Day, yeah we are different. And for her to say that, that’s wrong. That’s absolutely wrong,” Jacobs said.
Spangler said he will do whatever it takes to get close to the 30 percent raise.
“Everybody has been worried about the so-called lawsuit or salary suit. That’s a last resort for me, but as the CEO of this agency, if that’s what it takes then that’s what I have to do,” Spangler said.
Both Spangler and Jacobs told WATE they are willing to continue to negotiate with each other. The county commission will hold a second public budget hearing in June.