Sheriff Chip Hall says pay raises are needed to keep the best of the agency’s officers in Jackson County.

“Our goal is to have good employees, recruit good employees and retain good employees,” Hall told commissioners last week during a budget work session. “That’s the reason we’ve focused on a lot of incentives around our employees this year.”

County leaders must have a budget for fiscal-year 2019-20 in place by July 1. A public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Jackson County Justice Center. The tax rate is proposed to remain at 0.38 cents per $100 property valuation. The nearly $72 million budget includes a general fund balance of about $65 million.

The sheriff said he understands the challenge of having to balance his office with hot-button items, such as health insurance or an animal shelter. Reclassification of officers and part-time hires, as well as offering education incentives and holiday pay, would cost about $400,000, he said.

“I know everybody wants a piece of the pie,” Hall said. “That’s a pretty big piece, but I hope that’s something we could look at for the future so we can retain good deputies. We lost one last week to Macon County, and we’ve lost several to Cherokee Police Department.”

Commissioner Gayle Woody said she supports the proposed wage increase. As a retired teacher, she often sees familiar faces wearing uniforms with a badge, she said.

“I look at those officers, and they were some of my top students,” Woody said. “We’ve got to retain these local kids who grew up in our community.”

“I just want to see these men and women taken care of,” the sheriff responded. “They work hard to make sure Jackson County is as safe as it can be.”