Starke County Council Discusses Next Sheriff’s Compensation

 The pool of candidates interested in becoming Starke County’s next sheriff may shrink based on pending action by the county council to drastically reduce the pay for that position during the next term. Incumbent Sheriff Oscar Cowen earns $102,000 per year in salary plus proceeds from tax warrants, based on the terms of the contract he negotiated with the county. That can’t be changed, but state law does allow the county council to set the next sheriff’s compensation rate prior to the election. A law passed in 1993 requires the sheriff to earn at least 60-percent of what the prosecutor is paid, and that salary of roughly $125,000 is set by the state based on the county’s population. That means the next Starke County sheriff will be paid at least $75,000. An informal survey of most area sheriffs found that their pay is in the $85,000 range, so after a bit of discussion the council recommended setting the rate for the sheriff at $87,500 or 60 percent of the prosecutor’s salary, whichever is more, and asked county attorney Marty Lucas to draft an ordinance to that effect for their consideration when they meet in August. Cowen can’t run again due to term limits.