The Franklin County Sheriff’s office could face a new challenge post Election Day.
That’s if Proposition P fails here, but a Jefferson County initiative is approved the same day.
Today, the greatest challenge for retaining and hiring new officers is competing with wages in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, as well as municipalities in those areas.
According to Sheriff Steve Pelton, the problem could grow if law enforcement taxes in neighboring counties, including Jefferson and Warren, are approved.
Franklin County Prop P will be on the Tuesday, April 3, ballot asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement.
It is proposed that one-half of the collected tax, or one-quarter cent, would go toward constructing a new Franklin County Jail and communication facilities.
The other half would go for salaries in the sheriff’s department and municipal police departments in the county.
Unlike a sales tax here, Jefferson County has proposed a real estate tax that would charge 35 cents per $100 of assessed value. It is estimated to generate $7 million annually in unincorporated Jefferson County. The Jefferson County tax revenue would solely support the sheriff’s department.
Just last week, Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak said an experienced detective and an experienced canine officer submitted resignations to leave for better pay at nearby departments. Another experienced deputy resigned this week.
“Losing these experienced deputies is really hurting us,” he said.
In an interview with The Missourian, both Pelton and Marshak stated it’s likely deputies will leave their respective counties for the other if the tax measure is approved in one location and not the other.
“The reality is Franklin County has many good officers,” Marshak said. “If ours passes, I am in a situation where I need police officers.
“I am certainly willing to advertise in Franklin County with our new pay scale,” he added. “We are both in the siutation that we are trying to get police officers.”
Pelton stated that through the relationship built between the two departments he has recognized the value of Jefferson County deputies.
“Jefferson County and Franklin County have worked closely together throughout the years — a lot of our deputies know each other,” Pelton said.
“If our tax does not pass, Jefferson County could be another avenue with openings that is more lucrative,” he added.
“It is similar work and there have been a lot of friendships built between the departments,” Pelton added. “Jefferson County is a reputable sheriff’s office. I have a lot of respect for the department and so do many of our deputies.”
The current starting salary in Jefferson County is $37,900. In Franklin County, the starting salary is $38,272.
For municipalities in the county starting salaries are: Washington, $38,854; Union, $36,712; Gerald, $23,400; Pacific, $29,500; Sullivan, $37,003; and New Haven, $27,040.
The average starting salary for other departments in the St. Louis area is $50,091.
“We can’t compete with that, but we would like to close the gap,” said Pelton.
Following are starting salaries of regional departments with the increases from already approved tax initiatives:
St Louis County, $52,000;
St. Charles County, $55,583;
Metropolitan St. Louis, $41,808;
Maryland Heights, $57,108;
Richmond Heights, $49,364;
Lake St. Louis, $47,418;
Creve Coeur, $54,612;
St. Charles City, $54,676;
O’Fallon, $44,220; and
Missouri State High Patrol, $42,192.
Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison has stated the primary focus of new funds from Prop P would be to protect public safety by improving wages for deputies and jail staff, in order to attract and retain high-quality officers.
According to a draft of the proposal, “This sales tax will enable the sheriff’s department to hire additional deputies and jail staff, provide competitive wages to reduce turnover, increase patrol coverage, decrease response times, combat local drug and crime trends, and increase officer and public safety throughout Warren County.”
In Franklin County, the new tax would generate an estimated $6 million in revenue each year with half helping to fund the $30 million jail expansion and improvement project.
The other one-half, approximately $3 million, would go to the sheriff’s department and local police departments for salaries.
If Proposition P passes in April, the county and municipalities would begin seeing money as early as October.