First State probation and parole officers are hopeful they’ll see better pay and benefits in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Todd Mumford, president of the probation and parole officers union. He spoke about the need to raise wages at Tuesday’s budget hearing for the Delaware Department of Correction.
Mumford said he looks to make progress in talks with administration officials next month.
“We’re meeting December the 7th for the first time," he said. "We’re hoping to have another meeting December 11th. My perspective is we only need two meetings. One for me to present my proposal, one for you to accept it and we can move on with life and everybody’s happy. I know that won’t necessarily be the case.”
DOC raised the starting salary to $43,000 and offered additional bonuses to boost hiring rates for correctional officers. But they’re still having trouble attracting applicants. DOC received 476 applications in October 2016, 318 in October 2017 and just 193 last month.
DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps said DOC has gained 40 correctional officers this year. But there’s still currently 237 vacancies statewide, despite raising the starting salary to $43,000 and offering additional bonuses.
Phelps said attracting new recruits is like farming. Right now they’re they’re planting seeds through an education and awareness campaign.
“Have to wait your plants to grow, then when they grow then you can cultivate them and then you use them," he said. "But until then, you know you might get a wildflower over here, you might get a wildflower over there, but we’re looking for long-term number to sustain the system.”
DOC is transferring up to 330 inmates to Pennsylvania as part of a two-year deal with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Phelps said 75 inmates have already been moved.
He adds about 250 to 300 will be moved around inside the state, allowing a building at the Vaughn Correctional Center to close - freeing up 160 officer shifts and reducing mandatory overtime.
The Delaware Department of Correction is seeking an increase in its budget for the fiscal year 2020.
DOC is asking for nearly $349.9 million in FY 2020, a 7 percent bump over this year.