Blount Sheriff Losing Deputies to Better Paying Agencies

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Maryville, Blount County (WVLT) - Blount County's Sheriff submitted his budget to the budget committee and is asking for nearly three million dollars in extra revenue to give pay raises to deputies.

Sheriff James Berrong says right now he has 27 vacancies in his department because officers have left for higher paying jobs.

He says losing veteran officers hurts the department because it takes months to replace an officer but with low pay it's hard to find anyone who wants to work there.

"We've lost well over forty employees since the new budget last year. Four as of last week and another one today," Blount County Sheriff James Berrong wants to give a raise to his deputies, not just because he wants to but because he feels he has to.

"In the last seven or eight years we've just lagged behind and really deficient to the point where we can't get anybody to work for us right now," says Sheriff Berrong.

Without an operating budget increase in seven years, Berrong says employees are leaving for better paying jobs in neighboring places like Maryville and Alcoa where starting base pay is eight thousand a year higher.

"They have adequate law enforcement and unfortunately we don't at this time," Berrong says.

"I think that the sheriff's deputies deserve as much money as we can afford. They work hard for their money just like everyone else and they are not paid comparable to the city of Alcoa or Maryville," Blount County Commissioner Tonya Burchfield says.

County commissioners in the past have said they don't have any extra money to give, but Tonya Burchfield feels it's something they need to really look hard at. "If it means two more cents I'm willing to give it to get the sheriff's department what it needs because I have faith in it."

But it may be hard to look forward for the sheriff as Berrong says they're still reeling from last year's budget. "We're going to be out of gasoline in the next few days and then we'll have to deal with that situation. We're going to be out of medical probably at the end of this month."

Without more money, Berrong says he's looking at making cuts to make ends meet which includes school resource officers.

The Budget Committee took a look at the request Monday night. The full county commission is expected to get the request in the next two months.

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