Deputies, Placer County lock in two-year benefits contract

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The 225-member Placer County Deputy Sheriff’s Association has settled on a new contract with Placer County lasting through mid-2012. The Board of Supervisors approved the contract Tuesday while the 225-member deputy’s organization voted in favor of the pact Friday. The two-year pact – which doesn’t include salary adjustments applied to voter-approved Measure F – is estimated by county staff to increase costs to the county a total of $13,000 this year and $27,000 next fiscal year. County Executive Officer Tom Miller said the cost increases are related to a reduction for employee Public Employee Retirement System contributions of 0.5 percent offset by increased dental-premium cost sharing and a reduction in an “in lieu of” health contribution to 401K plans. The voter approved Measure F increases, which have tied deputy pay to an average of three nearby counties since the mid-1970s, will still mean costs will be rising, according to a staff report presented to supervisors at Tuesday’s board meeting. Deputy Sheriff’s Association members will receive mandatory wage increases of between 2 percent and 4 percent in February 2011 and 2012. Those increases are estimated to raise costs $300,000 over the last five months of the 2010-11 budget and another $710,000 for the full fiscal year of 2011-12, according to a report from Miller and Personnel Director Nancy Nittler. Sgt. Andrew Scott, spokesman for the association, said Tuesday that the resolution is welcome after previous contract disagreements. “It’s a refreshing change,” Scott said. “We recognize the economy is in bad shape and we’re willing to do our part to maintain Placer County’s fiscal integrity.” New hires with the Sheriff’s Office will be facing a different benefits package than current employees. Among the changes, new employees will no longer be eligible for lifelong, free dental benefits when they retire. They’ll have to work until age 55 to achieve retirement pay levels that current employees now receive at 50. Therese Leonard, of the CEO’s negotiating team, said both sides realized the county was undergoing difficult financial times. “Nostalgically, I look at 2006 and 2007 as years of prosperity and finances have been in reverse,” Leonard said. “We’ve had declining revenue streams every year since then. Both sides had a clear understanding of the economy and a desire to reach agreement.”