Mo. COs may see 3-13% salary increase
CO say the pay increase is long overdue and may not solve all the issues that the department is facing
St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Missouri corrections officers may soon be seeing a small bump in their paycheck thanks to a new state operating budget.
On June 10, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, signed the state’s new operating budget during a ceremony at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. This budget included a three percent increase for state workers, as well as an additional and ongoing one percent increase for every two years of service, up to 20 years.
According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, this salary increase created the biggest pay increase for corrections workers in the department’s history.
“I could not be more excited about this plan or more grateful for the support of House and Senate leadership, the Governor and the Governor’s staff,” said Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe. “Gov. Parson has demonstrated that he is committed to building the state’s workforce and that he values corrections staff, who are some of the hardest-working and most dedicated people in state government. Every day they put their own safety on the line to protect our communities.”
While corrections officers gathered around Parson in support as he signed the budget, there are some that say the pay increase is long overdue and may not solve all the issues that the department is facing. Gary Gross with Missouri Corrections Officers Association said understaffing will be an issue the department will continue to face, despite the small pay increase.
“It will definitely be a positive; we want our people to get raises,” Gross said. “Unfortunately the state is so far behind on the pay scale as far as nation-wide, that this will help, but it’s coming at a time that the institutions are extremely understaffed. And is it enough money to draw people in to work there? No, I’m not sure it is.”
Currently, Missouri corrections officers have a starting salary of $31,288, compared to the national average of $43,550 according to the U.S. Labor Bureau Statistics. The Missouri Department of Corrections said in a press release that this pay rate contributes to the vacancy rate in the state which peaked in September of 2018 with 848 open positions.
“This understaffing issue is going to be years before it gets resolved,” Gross said, stating that he believes there to be over 1,000 empty corrections positions. “It’s gotten to that level. People come in expecting to work a 40-hour week, then they find out after they’re in the institution that they’re going to be expected to work a 60 or 70 hour week. A big portion of them are not going to stay.”
The Missouri Department of Corrections hopes to fill some of those positions by offering a higher salary that ranges between three percent and 13 percent, but Tim Cutt with the Missouri Corrections Officers Association said he believes these numbers are deceptive.
“That pay raise is based on your induction pay, which means if you started 20 years ago, you would have been making a little over $20,000,” Cutt said. “It’s more money than they’ve gotten in the past few years, and we’re happy to see them have it. But they need to be a little more honest about what it is.”
The funding for this increase comes in part from the consolidation of Crossroads Correctional Center with Western Missouri Correctional Center, a move that saved the department $21 million per year.
“This decision is largely driven by our dedication to finding efficiencies wherever we can in state government,” Parson said during his State of the State Address in January. “This can be done while ensuring safety, improving security and delivering a much-needed pay raise.”
Gross said he believes the decision to consolidate the two prisons helped with staffing issues, but he has concerns that security measures are not being properly followed.
“We’re under the impression that there’s maybe some things going on and some inmates moved around the state to other institutions,” Gross said. “Inmates going from Crossroads to Western, that they’re security levels are just being lowered and lessened just so they’re qualified to make that move, and our fear is that it may create potential problems at Western.”
Both Gross and Cutt said they are glad to see an increase for workers, but still believe the department of corrections has a way to go before corrections workers in Missouri are equal with those across the country.
“It’s not as good as a job as it used to be. They have not increased the pay enough to offset the loss of benefits.”
The pay increase will go into effect in January of 2020.
©2019 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)