By Laura Kinsler
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Pasco County employees got pay raises this year for the first time in five years — but Sheriff Chris Nocco said that's not enough of a bump to keep his deputies from fleeing to other agencies.
In a letter he circulated Tuesday morning, Nocco warned county commissioners and police union leaders that his department could face a mass exodus of deputies now that the Pinellas County Sheriff is offering a $3,000 signing bonus to any deputy with three years experience.
In addition to the $3,000 signing bonus, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is offering to pay $500 in moving expenses to Pasco deputies who sign with his department.
"This is a tempting incentive for our deputies to start with a neighboring jurisdiction that has a higher rate of pay, along with shift differential and consistent overtime pay for their members," Nocco wrote. "In some cases, they can make over $10,000 more a year in Pinellas County on Day 1."
Gualtieri told the Tribune he began offering the incentives in October as a way to attract more seasoned officers. Pinellas, like Pasco, was losing deputies to Hillsborough, Tampa and Clearwater — agencies that offer higher starting salaries.
"We haven't given anyone the bonuses or moving expenses as of yet," Gualtieri said. "It's too early to know whether this is going to help."
Nocco hinted that his next budget could include another pay raise in 2015. He said the 3 percent raise employees got this year offset their state-mandated retirement contributions, but really didn't result in a positive gain. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Commissioner Henry Wilson suggested the sheriff's office look at changing its pay policy to allow for overtime pay instead requiring officers to use flex time.
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