The Deputy Sheriff Salary Supplementation Fund was created in 2008 so that county law enforcement officers around Missouri were ensured of making no less than $28,000 per year.
Created through state law, the supplementation fund’s income is generated through a $10 fee whenever civil papers were filed, and officers are now compensated from it so their salaries equal at least $29,000. For several years, it also provided an extra $100 a month to deputies making more than that.
But these days, more and more civil documents are being filed electronically and the fund is subsequently suffering. In turn, program’s overseeing board – the Missouri Sheriffs Methamphetamine Relief Taskforce (MOSMART) – has made cuts, capping the $100 bump at $35,000 about a year ago and eliminating it altogether this July.
So now, deputies making $29,000 or more get no supplement.
According to Morgan County Sheriff Jim Petty, a MOSMART board member, deputies in several small counties make as little as $18,500 a year, and those departments have a hard time avoiding almost constant turnover without the supplement, as officers seek higher paying positions with municipal departments or departments in larger counties.
“The low pay makes it hard to keep deputies from taking jobs elsewhere in law enforcement,” Petty said.
Without the $100 pay bump, almost no officers in Missouri’s larger county departments get a supplement since they’re paid above the threshold. That doesn’t sit well with those departments, because they generate the most paperwork and are therefore the fund’s biggest contributors.
“There’s a lot of electronic filing and a lot of private individuals serving papers,” said Texas County Sheriff James Sigman said. “You can understand why those big departments aren’t real happy with the situation.”
In its early years, the fund grew fast because departments were still filing manually. But with the advance of electronic filing, it has dwindled steadily and the situation is now so dire that more money is being paid out to supplement officers’ salaries than is coming in via paperwork fees.
“It will dry up quick at this rate,” Sigman said.
Sigman said the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association has urged legislators to have similar fees associated with electronic filing, but so far, that hasn’t happened.
“It’s a problem that really needs to be addressed and we’ve been trying to get something done for the last two or three years,” he said. “I wish I knew what the hold up is. But my experience has been that whenever it comes to funding law enforcement, it’s always a battle.
“It seems to me like this would be kind of a no-brainer, and I don’t understand it. I just hope there can be some legislation soon that fixes things.”
Sigman’s department includes 10 deputies. Two of those make more than $29,000 and, while the others’ pay from the county ranges from about $21,800 to $22,900 a year. Of course, they all get $29,000 a year as long as the supplemental fund continues to exist.
Officers first benefited from the fund in 2012, following a lengthy court procedure after St. Charles and St. Louis counties filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
“I’ve been so fortunate – I think I’ve lost three deputies in three years and it seemed like we were losing that many every year before this supplement came along,” Sigman said. “The way to maintain a good department is to retain officers, and if this fund dries up, that would be very hard to do and Texas County would take a step backward.
“Right now you’re looking at 20 to 25-percent of their salaries coming from a grant. Based on what the county can pay them, without that you can bet they would be looking at municipalities and other departments where they can make a better living.”
Rep. Robert Ross said he would welcome the chance to do what he can do help rebuild the fund.
“There a lot of people – like me – who are sympathetic to this,” Ross said, “and I would look forward to talking with the sheriffs’ association about ways we can work to help this particular fund, or find out if there is some other way to go about it. There has been such a movement of late – especially in urban areas – against law enforcement, but I can’t say enough about how much I support them. They work really hard and do a great job, and for what I totally agree is not enough pay.”
Sigman said the recent rash of violence against law officers makes the issue even more crucial to the upcoming state legislative session.
“We’ll definitely make it a priority again this year, especially in light of what has taken place,” he said.
“This is something I feel strongly about and I would I’d be very open to personally helping get something done,” Ross
“The way to maintain a good department is to retain officers, and if this fund dries up, that would be very hard to do and Texas County would take a step backward.”
TEXAS COUNTY SHERIFF JAMES SIGMAN