The senate passed House Bill 1409 Tuesday, which would raise sheriff's pay, depending on a county's population.
Pay currently ranges from $55,000 to $90,000 and the bill would raise pay to a range of $75,000 to $99,000.
Proponents of the bill said that an earlier fee increase was meant to finance pay increases but legislation to mandate it was never enacted.
A number of senators, though, question whether small counties would be able to afford increases as large as $20,000 a year without raising taxes.
"The sheriffs will receive the pay increase during the next election cycle in 2016. The raise will not come out of state funds it will come from the county's budget," said Sen. Willie Simmons.
Simmons said the senate would not appropriate funds for the pay raise.
County supervisors have to approve a motion to increase the sheriff's salary but before the motion can be approved, the senate must give board members the authority to introduce the motion.
"If the supervisors do not vote in the pay raise then the sheriff cannot receive it – we basically give them authority to approve the raise," continued Simmons.
"In most counties, sheriffs receive a pay increase due to an influx in population.
Bolivar County's population has decreased but his work load has increased," he added.
According to Simmons, the senate created a formula in giving the raise so that everyone would be treat equally.
"The formula that we created was based on population and work load," he added.
Sheriffs in counties with fewer than 15,000 people will make $75,000 a year, while those in counties ranging from 15,000 to 34,000 people will make $80,000.
In counties with 34,000 to 45,000 residents, sheriffs will make $85,000, while those in counties with 45,000 to 100,000 people will make $90,000. In counties with more than 100,000 people, sheriffs will make $99,000.
Although the Bolivar County's population has decreased over the years, Simmons said Sheriff Kelvin Williams is also responsible for the Bolivar County Regional Correctional Facility.
"The population in Bolivar County is around 35,000 but the correctional facility's population has increased tremendously since it opened," said Simmons.
"This alone is justification for an increase in salary for the Bolivar County sheriff. This also applies to counties that have a lot of casino activity. Several years ago, as more and more casinos came in, sheriff salaries increased," continued Simmons.
The bill passed the House 120-1 on Feb. 11 and the Senate 48-3 on March 11.
"Before approving the raise, we looked at previous raises that had been given to sheriffs and their responsibilities. We also looked at the risk that they take when fighting crime everyday," he added.
Simmons said sheriffs deserve the salary increase because they are responsible and held liable for various entities within each county.
Williams currently earns around $72,000 per year but with the new law, his salary is to increase by about $13,000.
"For me it is really not about the pay. I just try to serve my county and my constituents to the best of my ability. Some people think that this is glamorous job but it is a great deal of stress involved in it," said Williams.
"We receive phone calls all day and night. I took on this job to try to make a difference in this county and that is what I am doing. There is a lot of stress involved in this position," he added.
According to Williams if the legislature f that sheriffs deserve a raise then he will gladly accept it.
"I am raising three children and one of them is on their way to college so anything that can help me support my family would be a tremendous. People really do not know all of the hard work that my staff and I go through on a day to day basis," continued Williams.
"If additional compensation is coming then I am going to take it. I am just like anyone else; I would not turn it down. This raise will further assist my wife and I in raising our children," he added.
Williams said he is extremely grateful for the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors and Board Attorney Linda Coleman for supporting the bill.
The raises will be funded by process-serving fees for a variety of legal documents, such as warrants in criminal cases.
A law enacted in 2007 specified that a portion of such fees was to be set aside for sheriffs’ salaries, and supporters of the pay raises said the fees should generate enough money to cover the raises.
"This is when you have a summon for justice court of the court system and someone has to serve that warrant or those papers and that normally goes to the justice court, constables or any other law enforcement entities," said Simmons.