MANATEE -- Sheriff Brad Steube today requested $5.5 million for pay increases for his employees, which county commissioners said might be the subject of a voter referendum.
The sheriff made an impassioned plea to the commission, arguing that starting salaries for his employees have fallen behind those of other areas.
Steube said he is losing valuable officers who are taking jobs elsewhere because the salaries are higher.
Since last year, 40 deputies have resigned, and 25 have retired, Steube told commissioners.
Entry-level pay for his officers, at $39,689 annually, ranks 15th among a list of area agencies' pay rates, he said.
Commissioners expressed sympathy at his request, but nixed a tax increase in another tight budget year that would have to finance the raises -- unless voters OK'd it in a referendum that might occur as soon as this summer's primary election.
Steube made the request the same day County Administrator Ed Hunzeker unveiled a proposed $458 million county budget for 2012-13.