Sheriff Kelley rooting for Sheriff Salary Grant Assistance Program to become law

April 9, 2024 | Featured|Headlines|Police

NEWKIRK — Kay County Sheriff Steve Kelley is rooting for state leaders to consider and pass House Bill 4063, which would provide grant money to raise the pay of county law enforcement to the maximum amount.

The bill is authored by Rep. Kevin Wallace, Lincoln County, and Sen. Darrell Weaver, Moore, who is the former Director of Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The bill was first read on  Feb. 5, 2024.

Kelley explained that the bill is the idea of the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association and would provide grant money to counties to be used as salary increases for sheriff’s, deputies, and jailers.

“We are losing good workers to state agencies, casinos, and Atwoods because they offer better pay,” said Kelley. “One example would be that an Oklahoma Highway Patrol cadet trooper makes $60-$65 thousand a year which is double what some sheriffs are earning. Such low pay makes makes it hard to recruit and retain deputies.”

Maximum pay for a county sheriff is $75,000 while deputies is $45,000 and jailers $40,000.

Kelley said the average pay of Kay County deputies is $38,000 or $42,000, while a sheriff makes the same amount as other elected county officials. Kelley said that his salary as well as other elected county officials has been decreasing because of ad valorem.

He said the bill mimics one that has been successful in Texas for five years.

If the bill becomes law counties could apply for the grant money. Numbers would be calculated based on a three tier system that factors in population numbers multiple by square miles. Based on the calculations, counties could receive $250,000, $350,000 or $500,000 to be used toward county law enforcement salaries.

“If this becomes law it will be a historical piece of legislation because counties have never been a line item on the state budget before,” said Kelley. “I believe it would cost the state over $28 million to fund all 77 counties.”

The bill passed the house earlier this year by a vote count of 84-5. Kay County representatives Ken Luttrell and John Pfieffer voted for the bill.

Those who voted against the bill are Democrats, Arturo Alonso Sandoval, OKC, Andy Fugate, Del City, Regina Goodwin, Tulsa, and Mauree Turner, OKC and Republican Tom Gann, Wagoner.

Roger Thompson

Last week the bill past the Senate Committee by a 9-1 vote. Democrat Sen. George Young, OKC, voted no.

Kelley said the next step is for the bill to go through the Sen. Appropriate Committee. However, Republican Sen. Roger Thompson, Okemah, has put up a road block and has announced that his committee will not hear any House Appropriations bills until the House releases its spreadsheet with budget numbers.

If and when the bill gets out of committee, it will then go to the Senate floor. “If it gets defeated then we will try again next year,” said Kelley.