Travis County Correctional Officers Could Receive Salary Bump

Travis County correctional officers, salary bump, 263 vacancies, Travis County commissioners, overtime incentive program, minimum wage hike, Travis County Sheriff's Office, Williamson County, Hays County

Smart Austin Concierge

March 29, 2023

Travis County commissioners are considering a second salary increase for correction officers, as the department is down about a third of its staff with 263 vacancies. In March 2022, the corrections department saw a 129% increase in vacancies, prompting the county to take several moves to increase staffing. This included hiring a marketing and recruiting team, approving an overtime incentive program, and adopting a minimum wage hike from $15 to $20 an hour.

The overtime incentive program cost the county about $18 million in 2022, but it did not help the sheriff’s office meet its staffing goals. Low wages and stressful work conditions have been identified as potential reasons why the department may be struggling. Kristen Dark, senior public information officer for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, said the county is in the middle of a hiring process, with eight new corrections officers being onboarded in the next 30 days and 22 corrections officer candidates currently going through their background investigation.

Raising correction officer salaries would be a significant expense to the county and likely be the driver behind next year’s budget. However, paying a fully staffed department 40 hours a week would still be more cost effective than the price tag of overtime hours. Travis County Sheriff’s Office employees receive a $50,000 starting salary, which is slightly behind employees in Williamson and Hays counties.

Commissioner Ann Howard added more staff working less hours generally gives jail inmates better care and creates more balance for employees. Gatlin said he is wary of waiting to adopt a salary bump until the start of the next fiscal year, as the jail population tends to get higher in the summer and Travis County could lose employees to nearby counties.