The same week Santa Barbara County ratified agreements with three employee groups that will save the county more than $9 million, the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA) membership agreed to take serious cuts — including a 3 percent reduction in wages over the next three years — in an attempt to save membership jobs.
The agreement with the 464-member DSA will save the county roughly $4.1 million over the next four years, and DSA President Todd Johnson is hoping that the union stepping up to the plate will keep deputies from being laid off. “It’s all about saving jobs,” he said.
Prior to the concessions, the Sheriff’s Department was looking at the elimination of 27.5 positions, potentially including the operation of the Santa Maria Jail facility. That number included 15 deputy positions. Given the recent agreement, along with the agreement with the Service Employees International Union Local 620 (which represents a number of non-sworn department employees) the blow will most certainly be lessened.
But to what extent won’t be determined until next month when budget discussions get underway. While it’s ultimately up to the sheriff to dole out the money the board provides him, at budget workshops earlier in the year the supervisors told Sheriff Bill Brown their priority was to keep deputies on the front line.
Negotiations went on for three-and-a-half months, through two DSA administrations and at times were “all over the place,” Johnson said. The association recently had an election in which they voted in Johnson as president, and also elected a new vice president and treasurer. This group brought to the membership the deal approved Thursday night, by a vote of 191 to 135.
By defering a 2.5 percent increase the DSA was supposed to receive February 22 until July 12, the county is saving roughly $580,000. An additional previously negotiated salary increase set for August has also been deferred, saving the county additional money in both salaries and retirement contributions. That 3 percent increase will essentially be voided by the DSA’s agreement to take a 3 percent reduction in wages beginning in July and lasting until 2013, a one-year extension on the county’s agreement with the DSA. Also part of the agreement are “reopeners” scheduled for the coming months where alternative insurance plans for members and retirement for new employees will be discussed.
“This is great news that our deputy sheriffs are moving forward with agreements to help the County and our taxpayers during these challenging economic times,” 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf said. “This is the latest in a series of on-going discussions with our labor organizations to help save the County money.”
Earlier this week the board ratified agreements with SEIU Local 620, the Engineers and Technicians Association, and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, totaling roughly 2,200 of the county’s 4,000 employees. The deals with those unions — in which they will defer a previously negotiated 2.5 percent wage increase until next June, eliminate a 1.5 percent equity adjustment, and take out a $20 per pay period benefit allowance — will save the county $9.64 million. In exchange, the union members will receive 40 hours of paid time off.
While the concessions will help the county move forward in trying to balance the budget, the deferments will have to be taken up again come next fiscal year.
The board is scheduled to finalize the budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 in meetings June 7-11.