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Swain sheriff requests $20,000 pay raise

law enforcementSwain County Commissioners denied a $20,000 pay raise request from Sheriff Curtis Cochran during a recent budget workshop.

“I appreciate our sheriff — he does an outstanding job — but $20,000 is unusual and I can’t go along with it,” said Commissioner Steve Moon. 

County Manager Kevin King presented a preliminary budget that included a 2-percent cost of living raise for all county employees, but Cochran submitted his own raise request back in March.

In the request letter, Cochran said the $20,000 increase would still be under the salary and fringe benefits that previous sheriffs have had in the past. With an increasing demand in responsibilities of the office, he said his typical work week consists of 12-15 hours days and an average of six days a week in addition to being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I know it sounds like a lot of money, but if you figure the time spent on the job it is not a high hourly rate,” Cochran wrote in the letter. “It would equal around $25.00/hour at 12 hours/day and 6 days/week. The salary now figures out to about $19.50/hour with the work hours I put in.” 

King told commissioners he put in an $8,000 raise for the sheriff just as a placeholder, but it would be up to commissioners how to proceed. He said either way, the increase would have to be covered by fund balance — basically the county’s savings account. 

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“Twenty thousand is an exorbitant amount especially when look at what others are getting and what we’re going through with the budget,” said Commissioner Ben Bushyhead. “I would agree with what Kevin put into budget — $8,000 — but the full amount, no.”

Commissioner Danny Burns said an $8,000 pay increase for the sheriff would be about a 10-percent increase while all other employees get a 2-percent increase.

“I’m comfortable with that,” he said. 

Commission Chairman Phil Carson and Vice Chairman David Monteith didn’t offer any comments on the request, but the consensus was to leave in the $8,000 increase for the sheriff. 

Cochran is serving his third term as sheriff after being re-elected in 2014. His current salary is about $72,000. The North Carolina School of Government compiles a list every year of government salaries, but Swain County salaries have been left blank for the last two years. 

With the $8,000 raise, Cochran will be making more than Haywood’s sheriff and about the same as Macon County’s sheriff even though the population in Macon and Haywood is significantly higher. Swain’s population is about 14,000 compared to Haywood’s 59,000 or Macon’s 34,000.


WNC sheriff salary comparisons in 2015

  • Haywood County — $77,796
  • Jackson County — $109,298
  • Macon County — $81,947
  • Swain County — $72,000
  • Graham County — $47,677
  • Buncombe County — $120,411

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