HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — The Houston County Commission has approved a 9% raise for all county employees as a way of retention but also a way of recruiting.

“We thought it was very important,” Houston County Commission Chairman, Mark Culver said. “We have had a very difficult time retaining and recruiting employees.”

Houston County currently has an 11% vacancy rate, which equals about 45 open positions, and has struggled in keeping up with inflation.

“We made some cuts in other areas,” Culver said. “We have worked really hard to move some things out of the general fund so we could afford this increase and we just think taking care of our people should be the priority.”

One of the entities that are hoping to benefit from this raise is the Houston County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re very appreciative of what they have done for us and I think they will try and get us back on track to keep from losing employees,” Houston County Sheriff, Donald Valenza said. “I’ve lost 6 to 8 employees to Dothan strictly because of the salaries.”

The approval of the county-wide pay raise was unanimous amongst the three present commissioners, but one citizen brought up a question to the commission asking why so much security is needed at county buildings such as the administrative building and Sheriff Valenza says it all comes down to safety for the people of Houston County.

“So I feel the need to put the security that I have on these buildings to protect the employees in them,” Sheriff Valenza said. “They look to us for their safety. They are not law enforcement. We are.”

The 9% increase in salary will officially go into effect on August 1st.

Culver says that the county in the next couple of years will hold a study where they will evaluate each position in the county, to make sure that county employees are properly paid.