Johnson County commissioners voted Monday to raise the starting salary for dispatchers in the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office from $25,500 a year to $28,000, in an effort to get the department fully staffed and eliminate the need for overtime.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Beeson said he asked the county’s personnel director, Randy Gillespie, to survey starting pay for dispatchers at other area law enforcement agencies. Gillespie’s survey found that Johnson County was at the lowest end of the pay range, with a $25,500 starting salary.
Next up the scale is Hood County, which starts its dispatchers off at $27,600.
“We never seem to be able to fill all those positions,” Beeson said. “We train them and we lose them” to other agencies.
Chief Deputy Michael Powell confirmed that the sheriff’s office has not been fully staffed since the beginning of this fiscal year and that the dispatcher department is down by three right now, plus one employee on medical leave and another expected to go on medical leave after surgery at the beginning of March.
Powell said that supervisors in dispatch make about $40,000 a year, and that the average salary in the department is in the $30,000-$34,000 range. But the low starting salary has a significant impact on the department’s ability to attract applicants, he said.
Powell and Beeson both noted that money is available in the JCSO’s budget to make the change, due to attrition, and no budget amendments are necessary. Commissioners approved the increase after Powell told them earlier in the meeting that he was canceling the request he made at the Feb. 10 commissioners court meeting to have additional overtime pay authorized for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Powell told commissioners at that meeting that new state law requirements regarding what evidence the county must provide to defendants in criminal cases coupled with the fact that the dispatchers office is chronically understaffed meant that JCSO dispatchers were having to work overtime.