As more and more comp and holiday pay adds up for Pitt County Sheriff’s Office and detention center workers, controversy grows.

Sheriff Neil Elks approached county commissioners asking them to use the lapse salary, or salary set aside to pay for positions that remain vacant, to help offset some of those costs. In all, 239 employees are due comp time, adding up to $181,344.75. 142 employees are due holiday time, amounting to $165,496.66. Those two numbers add up to about $346,841.41 owed to sheriff office and detention center employees.

Pitt County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Christy Wallace said those numbers have grown over the years as their employees are asked to work long hours to ensure public safety.

“We’re not going to stop at 6 p.m. because our shift ends when there is a crime going on or when there’s a victim that’s called and needs our assistance,” Wallace said.

She said now is the perfect time to offset some of that cost by using the lapse salary that was already part of their budget. But Pitt County Manager Scott Elliott said that goes against standard protocol.

“We don’t at the end of the year just go out and spend what we have left in the budgets,” Elliott said.

He said the lapse salary money is added to the fund balance at the end of the year to ensure the county’s future stability. He also said county employees generally don’t get paid for comp or holiday work until after they leave their county position.

Wallace said the inability for their employees to get paid for the extra work they put in, combined with low salaries, is creating a workforce shortage, and causing current employees to look elsewhere for jobs.

But Elliott said they do studies every three years to remain competitive with other county salaries. He has recommended to commissioners to wait until the audit is done in the Fall before acting on this request.

Currently, the sheriff’s office operates under a $24.3 million budget, but are seeking a $25.1 for the new fiscal year.

The commissioners will meet on Tuesday about the 2015/2016 Fiscal Year budget. The meeting is at 7 PM at the Eugene James Auditorium on West Fifth Street.