The Barry County Sheriff's Department is awaiting dispersements from the Deputy Sheriff Supplemental Salary Fund, which will increase county officers' salary to $28,000 per year, but the increase will likely be short lived.
"We filed for this funding around five years ago, and it has been held up in court for that long," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly. "The idea behind the funding is that many deputy sheriffs' salaries are around $22,000 in the state of Missouri, and that is way too low.
"Due to the county budget restrictions, we knew that there would be no money for raises, so we applied for this funding," said Epperly.
The Deputy Sheriff Supplemental Salary Fund was established to collect an additional $10 of each document that is served through the civil division. The fund is designed to give counties an opportunity to apply for monies that can be used to increase deputies' salaries to $28,000 per year.
"There are a lot of counties in Missouri that are able to pay deputies more than $28,000 per year, but those counties also agreed to set up the fund," said Epperly. "The lawsuit was filed by St. Charles County."
During a recent hearing, a judge decided in favor of the fund, and county sheriff's departments learned that they will receive their first disbursement checks in January of 2012.
"It is broken down so that funds are dispersed every six months," said Epperly. "Our first dispersement will be $47,685.67. That will be enough to raise all of my officers up to $28,000.
"We have been told that we could receive two payments before St. Charles County files the second lawsuit on the dispersements," said Epperly.
If a second lawsuit is filed and a hold is placed on the dispersements, deputies' salaries will decrease back to the amount they were receiving before the county collected its first dispersement from the fund.
"This is going to help the deputies who I get to keep," said Epperly. "I had to lay four deputies off on Friday due to the county tax not passing."
Deputies who received notification of the layoff will be employed until Jan. 1, 2012. Next year, the sheriff's department will operate with a staff of 15 individuals, including bailiffs and jail personnel.
"This is going to put quite a strain on the sheriff's office," said Epperly. "We will try to give the county all we can, but there will likely be delays in call times."
Epperly said that the decrease in staff will save the county around $200,000 per year. He said he is unaware of any other cuts that have been made at this time.
"The sheriffs of Missouri are working to get the deputy's salaries up to where they are not forced to use food stamps or earning below the poverty level," said Epperly. "Our start up pay right now is $22,000, and most of our deputies are making right around there due to the turnover. This will also be the fifth year that county employees have not received raises.
"I would like to get across to the county that I was put in this position to serve the county, and I believe it is my job to provide a service," said Epperly, "but it is going to be much tougher without funding. I feel that our county has taken three steps backward. I just hope that this doesn't jeopardize the safety of the people."