Meridian Star

March 13, 2014

Proposed pay raises for Miss. sheriff's not equal

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — By Michael Stewart

    Pay raises for some Mississippi sheriffs would be nominal if a bill passed by the Senate is signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant, while top cops in smaller counties could see a significant bump in pay.

    Members of county boards of supervisors could also be granted an opportunity to increase their pay under another bill being considered.

    Under the proposal for sheriffs' pay, Lauderdale County Sheriff Billie Sollie's pay would increase annually from $88,000 to $90,000.

    Depending on a county's population, pay currently ranges from $55,000 to $90,000. The Senate bill would raise pay to a range of $75,000 to $99,000 if signed into law by Bryant.

    Sheriffs in Neshoba, Newton, Clarke and Jasper counties would earn $80,000 a year. Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge would earn $90,000 a year.

    Counties with smaller population bases where sheriff's typically earn less money could see significant increases if Bryant signs the bill into law. In Kemper County, which had an estimated 10,335 residents in 2012 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Kemper County Sheriff James Moore's salary would jump from $55,000 to $75,000 a year.

    A Meridian Star phone call to Moore Wednesday was not returned.

    Under the proposal, sheriffs in counties with fewer than 15,000 people would make $75,000 a year, while those in counties ranging from 15,000 to 34,000 people would make $80,000. In counties with 34,000 to 45,000 residents, sheriffs would make $85,000, while those in counties with 45,000 to 100,000 people would make $90,000. Finally, in the state's largest counties, with more than 100,000 people, sheriffs would make $99,000.

    Another bill under consideration would allow members of county boards of supervisors to vote to increase their pay by 10 percent, but raises would only take effect after the next election in 2015.

    Supervisors in Lauderdale County earn $44,700 a year, Lauderdale County Administrator Joe McCraney said.

    If the bill is signed into law and supervisors approve the raise, pay for the position would increase by $4,470 a year to $49,170 annually. The total yearly cost to taxpayers to fund such an increase would be $22,350 for the county's five supervisors.

    Neshoba County Administrator Benjie Coats said he believed supervisors there earn $40,400 annually. Coats said salaries for Justice Court judges and the county prosecutor automatically increase with any increase in supervisors' salaries, so the total cost would be more than it would appear at first blush.

    "What you have got to look at is the effect on those salaries as well," Coats said.