KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A budget fight is underway between Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, the Knox County Commission and Sheriff Tom Spangler over pay raises for deputies.
Jacobs proposed a budget that included an 8% raise for deputies, but Spangler took to the podium on Monday during a Knox County Commission meeting to ask for a 30% raise for deputies. The difference is about $14 million in a county budget that rose over $1 billion for the first time in county history.
It included no tax increase. Spangler asked for $95.9 million for patrol, and the mayor's office proposed giving him $84.7 million. Spanger previously told WBIR that he wanted to offer a starting salary of $50,000 per year for uniformed personnel. The proposed 8% increase would make starting salaries almost $48,000 per year.
During the commission meeting, he also said the mayor originally offered him a 3% raise, but only upped it to 8% after Spangler said he would remove some positions.
The proposed pay raises would also include an additional 10% for chiefs at KCSO. Jacobs said he was worried about that particular pay raise on Inside Tennessee, WBIR's political show airing on Sundays, and said chiefs at KCSO already make more than $100,000 per year.
At the commission meeting, Spangler said he needed to include pay raises for all roles in the sheriff's office.
"Every bit of this is an issue, sheriff," Commissioner Gina Oster said. "We're talking millions of dollars."
During the meeting, Spangler showed videos of deputies being assaulted, including a recorded emergency call from the October 1991 shootings of Knox County deputies Matthew Baird and James Carson, saying deputies faced dangerous situations at work.
During the meeting, they also compared salaries at the Knoxville Police Department and KCSO. Spangler included benefits when comparing those salaries, while Oster did not when discussing them. She said that KCSO deputies would make more compared to KPD officers after the pay increase, and Spangler said they would not because of the benefit packages.
She also asked why KCSO was the only one not to adopt a maternity or paternity leave for its office, compared to other departments in Knox County. Spangler said that since deputies' work is 24 hours per day, they would not be able to cope with the staffing gaps.
He also said he would file a lawsuit to get a 30% pay raise "as a last resort" against the county. Funding for that lawsuit would also come out of the county's budget.