County sending $2.46 million public safety levy to November ballot
County Commissioners voted unanimously during their Aug. 19 special meeting to send a $2.46 million public safety to the November ballot.
Initially, the sheriff and county attorney offices had proposed a $3.52 million levy but have since revised the proposal and reduced it to $2.46 million annually.
That equates to about $18.90 for a house with a $100,000 taxable value and $37.80 on a house with a $200,000 taxable value, according to the county.
Sheriff Jesse Slaughter said the levy will fund pay increases for deputies and deputy county attorneys. It will also fund a pre-trial program and a school safety program.
Matt Robertson, a deputy county attorney and president of the Deputy County Attorneys Association, said that they’re struggling to recruit and retain qualified employees due to salary issues.
He said that they have several vacant positions and haven’t attracted any candidates because of the low salary.
The job posting for a deputy county attorney in the criminal division lists the salary range as $64,940.92 to $80,440.92 depending on experience.
Robertson said the state office of public defenders recently renegotiated their contract with the state and their starting attorneys now make 18 percent more than those in the Cascade County attorneys office
He said their case load has increased and that they process more search warrants and investigative subpoenas, and take more cases to trial than any other county. The Cascade County attorneys office has fewer prosecutors than other large counties, Robertson said.
Josh Racki, the county attorney, is proposing to increase salaries for deputy county attorneys by $20,000 if the levy passes.
No one spoke in opposition to sending the levy to the ballot.
Commissioner Don Ryan said that the levy “is a good way to bring more money and help to both the sheriff’s office and county attorney’s office. Our funds our limited so we can’t do the things that they would like to do.”
Sheriff Jesse Slaughter is proposing to increase salaries by 35 percent for deputies to bring them more in range with the Great Falls Police Department and other agencies.
That also increases the sheriff’s salary to $92,500 since state law sets deputy salaries on a percentage basis of the sheriff’s salary.
Slaughter said that deputies make about $20,000 less than GFPD officers.
“You see that and think why would I stay at the sheriff’s office, there’s no point,” Slaughter said told The Electric.
He said five deputies have left the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office for the GFPD while he’s been sheriff and they’re currently down eight deputies.
Currently, the starting salary for a deputy at CCSO is $45,134, he said.
The levy would also fund a pre-trial program, including full-time staff.
Slaughter said that if the levy passes, they’ll issue a request for proposals for management of the program and he estimates spending $250,000 to $400,000 on pre-trial.
The levy would also fund an additional school resource officer and Slaughter is planning to roll out a school safety program that includes training and arming civilians who would be in the schools.