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Quorum Court votes to increase deputy pay

Increase for county officials sent to finance committee by Joshua Turner | September 14, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Columbia County emergency services workers meet at the Quorum Court on Sept. 11, 2023, to honor the 22 anniversary of 9/11 and support increased deputy pay. (Joshua Turner / Banner-News)

The Columbia County Quorum Court met Monday to vote on ordinances to increase sheriff deputy pay and county worker salaries.

Justices of the Peace convened an emergency finance committee meeting on Aug. 21 to consider increasing deputy pay from $40,686 to $48,000.

During the finance meeting, JP Jeremy Langley said Sheriff Leroy Martin asked him for an increase in deputy pay that would bring starting salaries to $50,000, following four deputies' resignations.

"I told him that I would like to compromise with $48,000 for the time being," said Langley.

Martin said during the meeting last month that he believes higher salaries would attract higher-quality officers.

"Our job is to keep Columbia County safe," said Martin at the finance meeting. "We have to look at a new group of people to come in and secure our county. The only thing that I am asking for is to make sure that we are in competition with all the other counties and cities in the surrounding area. We want to recruit the best, top-notch people."

JP Annette Pate asked if it would be possible to increase the pay to $50,000.

The committee agreed to propose a salary increase that would raise deputies' pay to $50,000.

On Monday a deputy pay raise ordinance passed unanimously without any discussion.

An ordinance to increase elected official pay by 15%, and that of other county workers, except sheriff's deputies and those who work at the library, by 10% was also on the agenda Monday.

Langley said the finance committee hadn't yet had a chance to review the county worker and official pay raise ordinance.

He said, "I want to make it very clear that I think all of our county employees deserve a cost of living adjustment. I just don't think this ordinance is the way to go about it. This ordinance was placed on our agenda tonight in a way that circumvents the normal budgetary process and something of this magnitude really needs to pass through the Finance Committee where the request can be properly vetted."

Langley and other JPs found an issue with how much the ordinance would increase pay, with JP Russell Thomas saying that somewhere from 3-5% sounded more reasonable. Langley also noted that library employees were left out of the ordinance.

"The title says that the library board sets the salary for library employees, but it's come to my attention that because they are county employees, the Quorum Court sets their salaries," said Langley.

A motion to have the ordinance reviewed by the finance committee was made by Langley, with JP Penny Cook abstaining from voting, JP Burnie Sharp voting present and other JPs voting to approve the motion.

The Finance Committee will meet on Sept. 29 at noon in the County Annex.

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