County Administrator: Deputy pay increases unrealistic

Pima Co SO patch

After months of negotiating for salary increases, the unions representing Pima County sheriff’s deputies might have hit a wall.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said last week he won’t recommend an increase in pay for the county’s law enforcement officers.

“Given that county employees have received less compensation than law enforcement (during the past nine years,) I will not support … salary increases that treat one class of county employee different than others,” he wrote in a memo to the Board of Supervisors.

Since last summer, the Pima County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police have been asking the Pima County Board of Supervisors to follow through on increases in salary, or “step increases,” that employees were promised years ago.

“Based on numerous call to the public discussions and apparent union pressure during an election year, there appears to be an expectation there will be significant salary adjustments in the … 2016/17 budget,” Huckelberry wrote.

With changes to the state’s budget and pending legislation, the county will be receiving less money from the state, which makes large pay increases an unrealistic expectation, he wrote.

In December, the sheriff’s department proposed an adjustment to the department’s pay package.

In response, the deputies’ union proposed its plan, saying the department’s plan would actually cost employees money.

Both proposals would cost the county more than $17 million, resulting in the need for a property tax rate increase of 23 cents, Huckelberry wrote.

Whether there will be any salary increases for county employees has yet to be decided.

“It’s all going to depend on how much state transfers cost us this year,” Huckelberry said Tuesday.

Cost transfers from the state to county peaked at $103 million last year, and the county’s liability to the State Aid to Education has since increased by $7.4 million, he said.

“With cost transfers like these, any kind of salary increases are extremely difficult.”

For more than a year, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association has been working with individual board members and human resources director Allyn Bulzomi in regards to salary issues, said Kevin Kubitskey, president of the association.

“Mr. Huckelberry has known about the pay plan costs for over a year, yet continued to negotiate and discuss pay plans with us,” Kubitskey said. “For him to sit back and say that negotiations won’t go forward, why did he even discuss it to begin with?”

While he respects and understands the position that Huckelberry is in, the board members are the ones who make the final decision when it comes to salary increases, Kubitskey said.

“We have faith that the board members will do the right thing when it comes to deputy pay.”