AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, Travis County commissioners voted to bump the minimum wage for its employees to $20 an hour. They will also implement a 5% raise across the board for all county staff.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is just one of the departments that will see significant pay bumps. According to commissioners, entry-level salaries for corrections officers with the office will go up nearly 7%, to $50,000 a year starting next fiscal year. Deputies will get a nearly 15% base salary increase, bringing their salary to $63,000 minimum.
The sheriff’s office hopes the increase will help with lingering staffing shortages, especially in the jail, where the county needs staff like nurses, correctional officers and mental health professionals.
“There’s not a state mandate on how many finance people we need, but in the jail we do have those mandates to make sure that we’re providing the best care that we can for those that are in our custody,” Major Craig Smith with the sheriff’s office said.
Staffing issues in the jail have previously led to a grant being pulled that would have paid for a pilot program involving the Capital Area Private Defender Service. The nonprofit wanted to connect people facing charges with representation for their first court appearance.
“I think it was absolutely essential for Travis County to increase the pay. It will make a huge difference for a lot of the stakeholders with regard to vacancies,” Bradley Hargas, the executive director of CAPDS, said.
Smith noted with a fully staffed jail, they could explore more pilot programs and give inmates additional resources they don’t have the ability to do now.
And it’s not just the sheriff’s office. The county’s transportation department said this pay bump will help retain and recruit road workers. There are more than 50 vacancies in Travis County’s road and bridge department right now, according to Susan Welbes, the administration services division director for Travis County’s transportation and natural resources department.
“Transportation is critical for your residents, and it’s really been a struggle because we have so many vacancies in these positions to be able to maintain the roads that we need to be,” Welbes said.
Both the sheriff’s office and transportation department said the minimum wage increase will help not only attract new employees, but retain the ones already with the county.
Overall, the minimum wage increase and employee raises will cost the county just under $50 million. It’s coming from the general fund. Commissioners will vote on the county’s tax rate and budget late next month.
You can apply for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office here. The office is also looking for dispatchers. You can apply for the Travis County transportation and natural resources department, and other county departments, here.