Carter County made the correct decision recently in approving raises for jail employees.
Carter County jailer R.W. Boggs sought a boost in pay for all jail employees by five percent. Starting pay for jail employees will go from $10.10 to $11.50 per hour.
Boggs justified the raises, noting the county detention center has lost employees to other jail systems because of the pay gap.
"It's important that we maintain our staff," Judge Executive Mike Malone said of the move, reiterating statements from Boggs about the loss of experience that comes with any employee turnover.
The court voted unanimously to amend the June minutes to authorize the change, with Malone saying the court would next look at what the impact would be of two, three, and five percent wage increases for all other county employees. A move to increase wages across the board could have a huge impact on the county budget, he noted, not just because of the payroll increase but because of increased payments for pensions and other related costs.
Our thoughts on this is it is a wise move. Would you work for $10.10 an hour in a job that requires you to potentially put your own safety at risk and deal with what are often very difficult individuals day in and day out? Throughout Kentucky these positions are woefully underpaid at both the county and state level, leading to a lot of vacancies. Yes, this pay jump will over the long haul increase the burden on the taxpayer. However, public safety is public safety -- it has to be done and it has to be done well. Paying people as little as possible to do such a difficult job is not good public policy and it does not encourage retention of trained people. With turnover it can also put good people who remain at risk.
Don't agree? Look just down the road at the Boyd County Detention Center. The county has struggled to retain employees to work in such a difficult environment. Combined with questionable management decisions in years past, the situation soon spiraled out of control. Inmate deaths, drug overdoses -- even a riot -- and the county is now spending a lot of money to get a facility subject to a federal civil rights inquiry back on track. Part of those expenditures? You guessed it -- raising the pay of jail employees for the purpose of retaining talented, committed employees.
We believe the Carter County Detention Center is a well-run jail. This decision obviously makes sense. We credit Mr. Boggs and the Fiscal Court for doing the right thing and we thank the jail staff for the excellent job they do.