Citing a 10 percent attrition rate, sheriff’s office personnel asked Parker County commissioners — in a budget session Monday — for $550,000 to $560,000 to bring the salaries of licensed peace officers up to those in surrounding counties and cities, including increasing the salary for recruits from $34,508 to $40,785.
They also asked the county to adopt a salary structure, to be reviewed annually, so officers could plan for the future.
“Out of 12 agencies surveyed, we’re number 11 in certified peace officers,” Fowler said, referring to an in-house survey of sheriff’s offices that compared the salaries of Parker County peace officers with those in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Grayson, Kaufman, Palo Pinto, Tarrant, Rockwall and Wise counties.
The survey, presented to the court by Capt. Mike Morgan, showed Parker County to be lower than average in 19 different positions, with deficits ranging from $2,012 less for a communications officer to $12,205 less for a high-level chief deputy.
The average annual salary of an entry level Parker County deputy sheriff is $36,142, compared with $42,641, the average salary of deputies in the surveyed counties, according to the study. The salaries range from a high of $51,827 in Rockwall County to a low of $33,573 in Johnson County, the only county shown as lower than Parker County. Palo Pinto County showed an average current salary of $42,640.
An entry-level corporal/investigator employed by Parker County draws a salary of $42,582, compared to an average salary of $46,294 for other counties, the study shows, a difference of $3,712. An entry-level sergeant is paid $47,741 in Parker County, but receives an average salary of $51,969 in other counties, a $4,228 difference.
Another in-house survey used data from the Texas Municipal League to compare county salaries with those paid by Metroplex police departments. The survey showed Parker County officers to be lower than average for seven different positions, with shortfalls ranging from $8,546 less for a probationary deputy to $32,639 less for a chief deputy.
One reason Parker County falls behind in wages, Morgan told the court, is because it doesn’t seem to be able to get or maintain a salary structure that projects what officers will be paid 10 or 20 years into the future.
He presented the court with a proposed structure, built on the sheriff’s study averages, that showed pay increasing each year over 18 years of service.
Under the salary schedule, a deputy sheriff I, entering at a $42,824 salary, would be making $58,111 by his or her 18th year.
But money is not the only reason the sheriff’s office has lost six or seven officers every year since 2005, Morgan said.
“One of the things a lot of people think is that everybody leaves for money,” he said, “and it’s hard not to leave the Parker County Sheriff’s Office for more money.
“But some of our guys tell us, ‘We’re going to departments like Northlake, Trophy Club and Southlake because we’re going to do about a third of the work for more money.”
Morgan used examples of hazards that deputies have encountered in the line of duty — like contracting Salmonella and being stuck with a syringe — to justify why they should be paid more than other county employees.
He said he thought commissioners had indicated in the past that they don’t think it’s fair to give deputies something that other employees are not getting.
“Sometimes what we think is fair and what other people think is fair are two different things,” he said.
Morgan said county employees are entitled to receive the market value for the job.
“They like it here, like the county, like the department,” he said. “They just say, ‘we ain’t doing this stuff anymore for $36,000 a year.’”
Fowler closed the presentation by saying that he doesn’t have enough officers on the street.
“The relief factor’s not there,” he said.