Charleston Co. sheriff addresses debate over $3.8M for deputy pay raises

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano is addressing a monthslong fight to get more money to increase the starting pay for deputies.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:06 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 9:04 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano is addressing a monthslong fight to get more money to increase the starting pay for deputies.

A recent bump in pay of $10,000 for both detention and sheriff’s deputies has come from money left over from the unfilled positions within the office. Graziano said she is still using that money as council mulls giving her additional funding.

Last week, council passed an ordinance that would give the department $3.8 million from the county’s general fund. That measure needs to go through a few more readings before it is given to the sheriff.

Graziano said they requested that money to fill all of the vacancies the department has for the remaining fiscal year, which ends in late June. The sheriff says they currently have around 30 open positions for sheriff’s deputies and fewer than 100 spots in the detention center.

She adds they have seen an increase in applicants for positions since the pay increases.

“We have seen an increase with the limited amount of advertising that we’ve done, but we haven’t started that campaign yet, and once we start that campaign, we anticipate it being much higher,” she said.

At the end of last year, the starting salary for the detention center and a sheriff’s deputy was around $36,000 and $40,000, respectively.

“There’s a history here of the status quo, following the status quo, getting a budget allocated at one amount this year, and it’s going to be the same amount next year and not accounting for any increase or very little increase,” Graziano said.

Now, the pay has jumped up to around $46,000 for the detention center and around $49,000 for sheriff’s deputies.

This took effect around the beginning of the year, and it is the first time since 2017 pay rates have gone up in the department.

“Any agency that waits five to seven years to adjust salaries beyond the market is going to struggle,” Graziano said. “As a county, they should probably start looking at this annually and not wait for four to five to six to seven years to make a market adjustment because then you’re setting yourself up for these huge increases in your budget you can’t prepare for.”

Graziano said she will use the money from the unfilled positions until she gets the money from the county.

However, she also says the salary has been one of the reasons the department has been struggling with keeping people on the books.

“We were losing them because of the money, and when you have a $10,000 difference in starting pay for deputies doing the exact same work across the street, then it’s a no brainer,” Graziano said, “but people come back to us often because they like the culture and they want to be in this agency.”

She also said council’s vote also carries a commitment to keep the new pay rates going for the next fiscal year.