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Marion County sheriff: $14.6 million budget increase won’t solve department’s low pay problem

MCSO budget increase won’t solve low pay problem

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is getting a $14.6 million budget increase for 2024 after the City-County Council voted to approve the budget on Monday night.

Sheriff Kerry Forestal told I-Team 8 that the increase is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve the department’s understaffing issue.

$8.6 million of the increase is for personal services. That amount is based upon a contractually obligated cost of living pay increase for deputies.

Forestal said, “This percentage was coming, so that percentage is about a $1500 dollar raise. Is that going to solve our problems? No, but as we’re moving forward, we couldn’t do anything more because of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Forestal says the collective bargaining agreement will be up for renewal next year, which is when the fight for higher wages will happen. “We’ll be back next year to work with the mayor and the council to try and get a better, fair, salary to be competitive throughout central Indiana. Nobody, I think, comes into this law enforcement career expecting to become rich, but they should be fairly paid.”

The fight for fair pay won’t be an easy one, Forestal says. “I think it will be difficult and that’s because it’s not just us. It will be the police, fire, and (Department of Public Works) all doing it, so it will be all four of us and everybody’s budget will be up, so everybody is going to say ‘we want. we want.’ at the same time.”

To put themselves in the best position to get the pay increase the department wants, Forestal says he’s allocating $200,000 of the 2024 budget to pay a third-party company to analyze their wage scale compared to neighboring counties.

That way the City-County Council can have unbiased data to make their decision. “This will be a third party to be able to give that information that we’ll be able to present when they make their decisions,” Forestal said.

When I-Team 8 asked if the current situation was one where they would have to spend money to make money, Forestal said yes.

“The thing is, some of the money that we’re spending, $200,000 is a lot, but that’s 4 deputies I’m not going to hire this year because we don’t pay enough. So, overall, it’s a small percentage of the budget to be able to get this money (and) to get other deputies back,” he said.

Until the third party finishes their review of the sheriff’s office pay scale, Forestal says he doesn’t know exactly how much money he’s going to be asking the City-County Council for in the 2025 round of budget hearings.