EAST COUNTY — In September 2012, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners gave the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office $3.2 million to address its budget concerns.
Armed with a study he says proves his point, a persistent Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube says it isn’t enough.
He came to a special March 21 workshop in the County Commission Chambers with a number that represented a specific demand — $3 million.
Steube says the amount is needed so he can increase his employees’ entry-level salaries to bring them to more competitive levels in the next year.
“It’s pretty plain what I’m asking for,” Steube said. “Last year, we went in the right direction by getting the $3.2 million, but it still isn’t enough and still doesn’t stop my problem of being the lowest-paid law-enforcement agency in this area.”
The money would help the sheriff’s office match beginning salaries of other area agencies based on a 2011 survey the sheriff’s office and the Management Advisory Group Inc., a salary and compensation consultant, conducted.
The survey said Manatee sheriff’s employees were 7% behind the minimum pay of the ranges, based on 70 jobs reviewed.
In a 2013 comparison showing salaries of 15 agencies, Manatee County ranked last at a $38,498 net salary, according to documents Tom Salisbury, sheriff’s office comptroller, and Carolyn Long, of the consulting group, presented.
To get into the middle of that pack would take $5.5 million, a number Steube asked for in September.
That request came after the sheriff’s office had its budget cut by nearly $5 million during the previous four years, Steube said.
It’s an environment in which experience is irrelevant — a deputy with five years’ experience in Hillsborough County transferring to Manatee would still make entry-level pay, Steube said.
Steube also said he would like to hire at least 20 deputies a year until his workforce reaches staffing comparable to others in the region.
He says, in regard to staffing street positions, he’s 300 positions behind peer agencies.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has 400 street-patrol deputies, including 100 detectives.
Last year, commissioners gave Steube $3.2 million to deal with pay compression issues, particularly the fact experienced workers with extra training make the same as entry-level employees.
Commissioners seemed sympathetic to Steube’s plea.
“How far can you stretch the rubber band before it breaks?” asked Vanessa Baugh, District 5 commissioner. “We realize the money hasn’t been there. We keep talking about promoting economic development and bringing companies here. Well, one of the first things people look at when they move is the crime rate. We need to take care of our people.”
Commissioner Michael Gallen recommended pushing the millage rate back to the rollback rate and increasing the rate — ideas Steube has suggested in the past — to generate revenue.
The commission has lowered taxes two years in a row. Gallen doubted if a third is necessary.
“Republicans have told me we have taxes low enough,” Gallen said.
With new commissioners on board, including Baugh and At-Large Commissioner Betsy Benac, Steube is hopeful, but guarded.
“They are talking positive, and that’s all I can ask for,” Steube said.
Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said commissioners would see a tentative budget for next year at the end of May, so they can review and approve it in June.
Hunzeker cautioned commissioners against making any emotional decisions based on the workshop.
During the next few months, the board will hear pleas from various sectors of the county, so it’s important commissioners stop to think about it all, he said.
As Steube wound down his presentation he told his own story of a man who started his career in the law enforcement 35 years ago, advanced through the ranks and now earns top dollar as sheriff.
He went through the Florida Retirement Option Program (DROP) two years ago.
“I knew I could retire after 25 years,” Steube said. “I want my staff to have that same option.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].
2013 salaries of 15 agencies (according to sheriff’s office documents and a presentation by Carolyn Long, senior vice president of the Management Advisory Group, Inc., of Lake Ridge, Va., a salary and compensation consultant) showed:
Out of 15 agencies, Manatee County’s pay ranked last with a net starting salary of $38,498.
By comparison, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office ranked first at $44,471 and the Pinellas Park Police Department ranked eighth at $40,517.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube also is requesting funding for another 300 street-patrol deputies, which would put his agency in line with the staffing numbers of neighboring organizations.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office currently has 400 street-patrol deputies, including 100 detectives.