NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s budget, which took effect on July 1, will have a substantial impact on Morgan County as a result of action taken by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) to raise the pay of the state’s correctional officers. A higher starting salary will help fill vacant correctional officer positions and compression pay raises for the state’s veteran correctional officers and counselors will better the standard of living.
The compression pay increase for veteran employees was placed in the budget by the Senate State and Local Government Committee after a motion by Sen. Yager was adopted. Yager said the pay raise will impact 468 Department of Correction employees who reside or work in Morgan County, with a potential investment of $2,768,334.82. Several other correctional employees who are not counselor or officers will receive a one-time $1,500 bonus payment as well.
“This is great news not only for the deserving workers who receive the pay raise and their families, but for all of Morgan County,” said Sen. Yager. “There is a spillover effect to many other areas which benefit our county economically. I appreciate the support of Governor Lee for these changes.”
The purpose of the appropriations is to hire and retain prison personnel who are essential to public safety. Tennessee’s correctional officers were among the worst paid prison workers in the country until passage of the new budget.
The starting salary of new officers, or Correctional Officer I, will be set at $32,500 annually, whereas previously it was $27,500. Upon completion of the probationary period, the officer will be elevated to a Correctional Officer 2 position at a pay of approximately $34,000. It will also increase the pay of Correctional Counselors 1 and 2 to approximately $34,000 and $37,000, respectively. This will help to bring starting pay more in line with other law enforcement officers in the state, enabling the state to recruit new employees to fill vacant positions. Tennessee currently has 300 beds which are not filled due to vacancies, backing up local jails with prisoners awaiting transfer to state prisons.
“While I fully supported the recommended needed increases in the starting salary, I believed we must do more for our veteran officers to reward the loyalty they have shown and reflect the learned expertise critical to the success of our corrections system,” added Yager. “This appropriation saves Tennessee from being at the bottom of correctional officer pay in our eight contiguous counties to second from the top. It will benefit many correctional employees and will alleviate some of the problems Tennessee has experienced in filling and keeping correctional officers and counselors on a challenging job. I am very glad it has been enacted and look forward to seeing the many benefits it will bring to citizens of this county.”
Yager said the potential total combined investment to Scott, Morgan and Roane Counties which he represents is $3.45 million as a result of this budget action.