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Proposed Smith County budget calls for law enforcement pay raises

County hopes increase will help retain jailers
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Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Some East Texans who work in law enforcement could soon see a significant increase in pay.

Smith County’s proposed FY 2022 budget calls for law enforcement salary bumps, especially when it comes to entry level jobs. And it’s the county’s hope that the pay raises will especially help when it comes to retaining jailers.

“I’ve been in law enforcement 45 years and I will be the first to tell you, I wouldn’t like working in the jail setting day in and day out,” said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. “It takes a special person to do it.”

For years, Smith County has struggled to fill job openings at the county jail.

“You get spit on, you get urine poured on you, feces thrown at you, cursed at everyday,” Sheriff Smith said. “And it wears on you after a while.”

The tough nature of the job combined with it often serving as a stepping stone to becoming a deputy makes it hard to keep vacancies and overtime down, especially with the state requiring one jailer for every 48 inmates.

“We don’t necessarily have a hard time hiring personnel, but the retention is what’s really hurting us,” Smith said.

But the county’s proposed budget calls for pay raises that could help. If approved, starting pay for jailers would go from $33,000 to about $40,000 a year, a 23% increase.

“You can only enjoy where you’re working so much if you’re making what they make in the jail,” Smith said.

The proposal not only calls for jailer pay increases, but a 32% increase in pay for entry level courthouse security officers, a 25% increase for entry-level deputies, and a 21% increase for constables.

“This was a project not asking for a raise, but just simply looking at the numbers,” said Jeff McClenny, Smith Co. Constable Pct. 5.

Smith Co. Judge Nathaniel Moran asked Pct. 5 Constable Jeff McClenney to take a look at how Smith County constable pay stacks up against counties of similar size.

“We noticed there is a large difference between counties similar to our size, especially when you take Hayes and Brazos counties,” McClenny said. “Which are very close to us as far as population. One of the counties is at $77,000, the other is at $79,000.”

That’s compared to $60,900 in Smith County.

“I think that it would definitely make this a position that somebody could come into with the experience and the pay is comparable to other positions that those may want to seek.”

If approved by commissioners, the new budget would take effect October 1 with pay increases taking effect the same day. The proposed budget does not call for a tax rate increase.

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