(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Law enforcement officers have always worked to protect and serve their community, but in Buchanan County they're doing it for below average pay.
According to Salary.com, the national average for a deputy's salary is roughly $53,000. However, Sheriff Bill Puett said the starting salary for a new deputy in Buchanan County is $35,000.
"If you look at Missouri, you know, obviously larger counties pay a little bit more than smaller counties and they struggle even worse across the board," Sheriff Puett said. "You look at the east side of the state, the east side of the state pays a lot more than we do."
Puett said after a deputy's first year with the department they do receive a probationary raise. That raise would bump their salary up to $39,500.
Although for many of the deputies, the job has been about more than just the pay.
"It was either military or law enforcement. I chose law enforcement," Deputy Grant Thrasher, Buchanan County, said. "I feel like I wanted to help people. Good and bad, it's our job. I love it, and I wouldn't change it for the world."
Deputy Thrasher has been attending Missouri Western State University to study criminal justice. He's been with the Sheriff's Department for almost two years, but said it was never about the money for him.
"People often get in this line of career and they think that they're getting in it for the money, but realistically they're not," Thrasher said. "It's about enjoying your co-workers, and getting to know your community."
Sheriff Puett said how much money is set aside for salaries is decided upon by the county, and is generally allocated for the number of personnel on the department's payroll.
"We submit the budget to the auditor, and then she submits it to the commission and then they work through the budget process and decide where all the money is going to be taken from," Sheriff Puett said.
Typically, the money is split between the general funds revenue for the county and the eighth of a cent law enforcement sales tax.
"The funding for the law enforcement sales tax was passed in I believe the early 90's at an eighth of a cent. It's never been raised since the early 90's," Sheriff Puett said.
The salary budget for this year was set for $4.4 million, which includes all staff and members of the department.
With salaries being low in the county, Sheriff Puett said recruiting new deputies has been a difficult process.
"Right now everybody is recruiting, everybody is looking for good, solid people," Sheriff Puett said. "Everybody is always taking applications."
The Sheriff said the budget for the department is separate from the St. Joseph Police Department. He said although pay has been on the low end, the Buchanan County Commissioners did allow enough funds in the budget this year to give the troops a pay raise.
Sheriff Puett also said the county does work to provide good benefits for the department.
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