ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandoval County sheriff’s deputies can look forward to a fatter paycheck within a couple of weeks after county commissioners this week approved a pay and benefit increase.
The pay increase equates to an average of 4.5 percent across pay grades. There will also be a 1.5 percent increase in the amount the county picks up for the employee portion of the Public Employees Retirement Association contribution.
Undersheriff Karl Wiese told commissioners at their Thursday meeting that the sheriff’s office has seen a “higher than desirable attrition rate” in the last couple of years. If pay rates were improved, it would make the force more competitive with other agencies, he said.
The increases apply to employees represented by the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, from officers who have just passed their probationary period up to and including sergeants, Wiese said.
He said the county has included the increases in its current budget so deputies should see the amounts reflected in their next pay period.
Deputies who are union members were not included in the 3 percent pay increase and 3 percent PERA contribution increase that other county employees received on July 1, 2013. That was because county representatives were still negotiating with the county sheriff’s union’s parent organization, the New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers, on a revision of the deputies’ 2011 contract, Wiese said.
He said the contract revision process could still affect the decision commissioners made on Thursday.
After months of negotiations and an attempt at mediation, the county and the union agreed to go to arbitration. They are now waiting for an arbitration hearing to be held. Wiese expects the hearing within six months.
He said the county could legally impose the financial portion of its “best and final offer” to the union, but other aspects of the contract, such as working conditions, overtime and work scheduling, will be decided through arbitration.
Wiese explained that the hearing officer will make a final decision either to go with the county’s offer or the union’s offer. If the arbitration decision goes in favor of the union’s offer, the wages and benefits in the union offer would take effect, replacing the increases the commission approved this week, he said.