Sheriff Steve Simpson was wearing his uniform and a huge smile when he left the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. At least two board members wore frowns.
The supervisors had just given Simpson an $18,000 pay hike, effective July 1. They approved a $16,724 salary increase and a supplement of $1,276, bringing Simpson's annual salary to $124,477.
Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) asked County Administrator Kirby Bowers, "How can you assure us that this won't happen again? It happened two years ago."
Bowers said the board's motion sets up a practice of allowing constitutional officers such as the sheriff, treasurer and commissioner of revenue to receive annual pay increases equivalent to those of county employees, in the form of supplements. Eligibility would be based on the board's approval and the constitutional officers signature on a cooperative agreement. "This sets up a systematic system," he said.
Chairman Scott York explained that the state requires the sheriff's senior staff to not make more than 90 percent of the sheriff's salary. By boosting Simpson's pay, this should not be a problem in the future, according to York. Simpson could receive the same percentage increase as his deputies and still abide by the 90 percent rule.
Burton countered, "We put him out in front two years ago, and he's no longer out in front."
SIMPSON TOLD the board that the action taken by the last board was for that particular year. "What we're looking for is a system that sets me out where I need to be, and the other senior staff will be where they need to be.
"This sets up a system where it's all automatic."
Bruce Tulloch, vice-chairman of the board, recommended introducing legislation that would prohibit the sheriff's salary from being tied to the deputies' pay. "I'm not too happy about this," he said.
"Hopefully we can get things amended so the salaries are not tied to his salary," York said. "In order for us to keep the deputies, to give them the much deserved pay they are due, we have to keep the sheriff's pay well above their salaries.
"This action was taken to give the pay increase the deputies deserve."
If the sheriff doesn't get a pay increase, the deputies cannot receive one, York said.
THE STAFF REPORT that accompanied the board's motion said a review of pay levels of neighboring jurisdictions for the chief of police positions indicates the mean salary is $131,484 per year. A salary review of the Sheriff's Office rank and pay structure is underway.
The board approved the motion 8-1, with Burton opposed.