BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — After months of informal discussion, the Sullivan County Commission now has figures to add to its consideration of a raise for uniformed sheriff’s office employees.

Wednesday night, the county Budget Committee voted unanimously to recommend the sheriff’s office’s request to increase hourly wages by $3.

The county already passed a 5% across-the-board raise for department employees in its 2023 budget, but sheriff’s department leaders say they still haven’t been able to compete with other agencies.

“We’re asking to raise our pay so we can be competitive and we can recruit and retain these people and continue to provide a great service to the citizens here,” Chief Deputy Tracey Kittrell told News Channel 11.

The current starting rate for a sheriff’s department employee is about $18 per hour. If the request passes, the total will come up to about $21.

The current starting rate in Kingsport is $20 an hour.

“We’re hemorrhaging new talent and senior officers,” Kittrell said.

The department is currently down about 20 employees.

With the budget already settled for this year, commissioners will have to consider whether the county can afford to pay about $1. 5 million to cover the total cost of the proposed pay raises.

Mayor Richard Venable said the county’s fund balance can handle the cost, at least in the short term.

“The real problem is not paying for the first year,” Venable said. “It’s the continuing cost that you have, which will be a million and a half more than what we budgeted this year.”

The full commission will consider the proposal at its Sept. 21 meeting. The measure will have to pass the commission twice with a simple majority or once with a two-thirds majority before it is adopted.