Augusta public safety officials are asking for more money, for more employees, and more equipment. The budget season has started with Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Fire Chief Chris James making their proposals for next year.
City leaders say they support what the Sheriff and Fire Chief are doing, but with 2,700 Richmond County employees who haven't had a raise in 5 years, there is the possibility that other department heads will also ask for employee raise.
Roundtree and James have a big wish list for 2014. The sheriff is hoping to purchase tasers for every deputy, body cameras, and four new vehicles for a gang task force. But that isn't all, Roundtree wants to give all of his employees a 5% raise.
"These officers haven't gotten a raise in 5 years. I know that is true for all county employees, but like I stressed to them, the challenges that we have in law enforcement are different from other employees," Roundtree says.
As for the Augusta Fire Department, James is asking for new equipment and clothing for his fighters. And to stay competitive with higher-paying departments in the area, James is also seeking a 5% raise for his employees.
"Not only do we have new firefighters that sometimes leave, we may have some firefighters with several years of experience that may leave. So at some point, I felt that we need to address that issue," James says.
And even though officials say the standard is to give all city employees a raise, Roundtree says his employees have been doing excellent work.
"At the beginning of the year when I said, I'm going to ask for a raise, I said I'm going to come with a product. We showed that. Our homicide rate is down, our traffic fatality rate is down, my burglary rate is down. And that is the work. I promised that to the officers, so I'm going to stand by that."
And Commissioners are standing by the Sheriff's Office and the Fire Department, however, they are not sure if the city can afford to pay all 2,700 city employees a raise.
"Since we haven't been able to give them cost of living raises since 2008, certainly, it would be difficult for the rest of the workforce not to expect for us to try to give them a raise also," Augusta Commissioner Donnie Smith says.
The Sheriff and the Fire Chief say that they are constantly losing good employees because they can't pay them enough. The city administrator will present his budget recommendations next month.
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