New Texas law aims to solve staffing shortages by boosting funds for rural sheriff departments

Law enforcement offices that serve rural counties can receive funds to raise pay, hire new officers and buy new equipment

By Joanna Keen

AUSTIN, Texas — Sheriff’s offices throughout Texas struggle to maintain the money, manpower and materials to run their departments. A bill now passing through the legislature could help change that.

Senate Bill 22 “amends the Local Government Code to establish grant programs to provide salary assistance for rural sheriff’s offices, constable’s offices, and prosecutor's offices in counties with a population of 300,000 or less,” according to the Enrolled Bill Summary.

Counties that qualify as rural and want a piece of this grant funding can submit one application per fiscal year, the bill states. Funds will be distributed by the comptroller according to the population of each county – the more people a county has (up to 300,000), the more a county is eligible to receive.

The text of the bill says that grant money can be used to hire new staff and buy new equipment only after the departments meet minimum wage requirements: $75,000 for sheriffs, $45,000 for deputies and $40,000 for jailers.

The law will go into effect Sep. 1. Applications will be accepted Oct. 1, and grants will awarded Jan. 2024.

A raise in compensation could go a long way for departments attempting to hire and keep staff on board, Gillespie County Sheriff Buddy Mills told the Texas Tribune.

“The ability to move across the state for work is pretty easy to do,” Mills told the Tribune. “Having someone stay with you is really amazing.”

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick issued a statement in March 2023 addressing the reasoning behind the bill and its unanimous passage by the Texas Senate. He said that because of the federal government's “failure to perform its constitutional duty to secure the southern border,” all law enforcement officers in Texas are being forced to be border patrol agents in addition to their normal duties.

The pay rural sheriffs receive, Patrick said, is not enough to attract people to work these “dangerous jobs.”

“In Texas, we believe in the rule of law. By passing SB 22 today, the Texas Senate has reiterated its commitment to supporting the brave men and women of law enforcement,” Patrick said.

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