MANATEE -- Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube proposed a $3 million pay increase Thursday for his employees that would help bring their beginning salaries up to more competitive levels in the next year, he said.
The money would help the sheriff's office to match entry-level salaries of other area agencies based on a 2011 survey, said Tom Salisbury, comptroller.
The survey indicated sheriff's employees were 7 percent behind the minimum of the ranges, based on 70 jobs reviewed, said Carolyn Long, senior vice president of the Management Advisory Group, Inc., of Lake Ridge, Va., a salary and compensation consultant.
"Remember that we are kind of way behind, so we're trying to bring them back up," she told the Manatee County Commission during a workshop session at County Administrative Center.
"I think this will staunch the bleeding," she added, noting that sheriff's deputies have been leaving Manatee County because salaries are so low here.
In order to bring Manatee County workers to more competitive levels based on 2012 parameters, the department would need about 5 percent, or about $1.5 million to $1.8 million in additional money, for a total of about $4.5 million to $4.8 million combined, Salisbury said.
In a 2013 comparison showing salaries of 15 agencies, Manatee County was last at $38,498 net salary; Pinellas Park Police Department eighth, at $40,517; and Hillsborough Sheriff's Office first, at $44,571, according to sheriff's office documents.
The sheriff said he would also like to hire at least 20 deputies a year until his workforce reaches staffing based on south Atlantic region recommended ratios, Salisbury said after the meeting.
Commissioners were sympathetic when Steube voiced frustration over continuing budget troubles.
"I would recommend we focus on solving these issues, not lowering taxes as our goal," said Commissioner Michael Gallen.
"I still believe that doing nothing is not an option," said Commission Chairman Larry Bustle.
"How far can you stretch the rubber band before it breaks?" asked Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.
Last year, the commission provided Steube $3.2 million to remedy "pay compression" -- when more experienced workers fall behind newer ones in pay.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.