ANGOLA — Perhaps the exodus of Steuben County Sheriff’s Office deputies and jail confinement officers will soon come to an end.

“Boy, you know what, I sure hope so,” Sheriff R.J. Robinson said.

That’s because the Steuben County Council has approved increasing starting pay for both deputies and jailers significantly so those positions pay comparable wages to those in surrounding counties to where the county would often lose officers.

The council on Tuesday approved on final reading a 2020 budget that not only brings the sheriff’s department’s pay in line with surrounding counties, but increases pay for most all county employees.

“I think we’ve done a good job addressing (wages),” Council President Ron Shipe said.

If the county’s budget survives the cutting arm of the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance and the County Council approves the 2020 salary ordinance in its Oct. 8 meeting, deputies will all be paid a base wage of $50,000, which is up from the current $38,700. Officers can receive additional pay based on their rank and special training they have achieved.

“Until the salary ordinance is approved, it’s not set in stone,” cautioned Steuben County Auditor Kim Meyers.

“These are numbers we are adopting and not necessarily (will be) approved by the DLGF,” Shipe said.

Council members and Steuben County Board of Commissioners members have been working for years to bring up pay, for all county employees, but especially the sheriff’s department that has often served as a training ground for other departments. Because of pay, deputies would go through their necessary training then quickly find positions with other neighboring departments.

“It’s not going to solve everything but I hope it will plug the hole. You know, I came into office with 16 open positions. I have them all filled and this is bringing new energy to our office. It makes the occupation feel like a career and not a training ground. And I appreciate the County Council for it, for the recognition,” Robinson said. “We have a very professional, very public office here and the community needs to be represented with a certain standard. It’s very difficult when we’re always retraining.”

Confinement officers will see their base salary increase to $37,000 from the current $31,858. Extra pay will be added for rank and training.

The increases bring Steuben County in line with other counties.

“I’m not asking over and beyond or a Christmas gift or anything like that,” Robinson said. “I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. Hopefully it’s a turn around.”

Elsewhere most all other full-time county employees received $4,000 raises. Each of the elected officials received $4,000 raises, with the exception of commissioners, who received $1,000 apiece, and council members, who did not get raises. Chief deputies in all offices received $4,000.

County Human Resources Director Crystal Dadura anticipates a pleased workforce if the raises pass the DLGF and salary ordinance muster.

“I’m anticipating if it happens, the employees will be happy about it,” she said.

Council members spent last Wednesday and half of Thursday crafting the 2020 budget. The council always plans on up to three days to finalize budget numbers for the following year.

“I really want to thank each and every one of you (council members) for this budget process, especially the auditor,” Shipe said.

As it stands before DLGF final approval, next year’s budget comes to $25.7 million in the general fund and special funds. Of that, the amount to be funded by taxpayers is $11.1 million. The tax rate is 38.53 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Meyers has five days in which to submit the budget to the DLGF.

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