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Henry County approves pay increase for law enforcement and public safety

This is the seventh pay increase to deputies since 2017

Henry County made moves this week to help curb the public safety issue by increasing pay for public safety officers.

HENRY COUNTY, Va. – The Henry County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a request for additional compensation for sheriff’s deputies and public safety personnel during its Oct. 26 regular board meeting.

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will be used to provide a $2 per hour hazard duty supplement to law enforcement and public safety personnel from January 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022. The supplement results in an annualized salary increase of $4,160 for each deputy.

“This was a statement from our community that law enforcement is important to our citizens,” said Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.

Henry County is not the only locality dealing with this issue.

“It’s not isolated to one county or state. This is really a national issue,” confessed former police officer and criminologist Dr. Tod Burke.

He went on to add public safety officers are being asked to do more for less.

In Henry County, there are a number of vacancies. Before the new county jail opens sometime in 2022, the sheriff says he needs to fill 40-50 positions on top of current openings for patrol officers, court security, school resource officers and investigators.

Perry believes low pay and negative receptions of officers are to blame.

“It really left a mark in law enforcement ranks, and that was the reason all of the sudden there was a mass exodus of people leaving,” said Perry.

Dr. Burke says lawmakers will need to address the pay issue, which is what the Henry County Board of Supervisors did Tuesday.

Based on current staffing levels, the estimated fiscal impact of the request would amount to $500,019 in the current year and at least an additional $1.2 million in future budgets.

By using ARPA funds, the Board avoided using reserve funds outside of the normal budget development process. While the ARPA funds can be used to cover the cost of the additional compensation in the current year, the funds cannot be used as a permanent part of increased employee compensation.

The additional revenue needed to cover these pay raises in the future will be equivalent to a 3.9 cent increase in the real estate tax.

Perry previously approached the board during its September meeting to request additional compensation for deputies to assist with recruitment and retention. After working with staff, a proposal was finalized to increase the starting pay for a new deputy to approximately $42,000 and then to award a 9.3% increase after one year of employment. Perry also requested a 10% salary increase up to a maximum of $5,000 annually for deputies with at least two years of service.

“We don’t like to pay higher taxes either, but if we’re going to maintain as a County and keep things the way we’ve got then that’s the only way we’ll be able to do it,” said Henry County Board of Supervisor Joe Bryant. He represents the Collinsville district.

Given that public safety is also dealing with similar staffing issues as law enforcement, it was deemed necessary to include personnel in any additional compensation allocations.

“This right here will heal what we would say are wounds in the sheriff’s office, giving equal pay to the deputies compared to other counties in the area,” said Bryant.

Following the pay increase, the starting salary for a deputy in Henry County will be $43,160 which is higher than most surrounding localities (Danville-$34,375; Martinsville Police Department-$37,581; Pittsylvania County-$38,040; Patrick County-$38,890; Franklin County-$39,900; Roanoke-$42,000; and Danville Police Department-$45,330).

By approving the request, the board has now given the seventh pay increase to deputies since 2017, including a $3,000 bonus that will be paid on November 15, 2021.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.