The county has three, three-year union contracts to
negotiate and does one of these contracts each year. Other
contracts are for the highway and the health departments.
While contracts are for three years, they still
contain responsibilities that change from one year to the next.
One of the toughest issues in each of the contracts,
particularly in recent years, has been the rising cost of health
insurance. Health insurance is an important benefit that is offered
to all county employees and is renewed annually on May 1.
Finance chairman Chuck Ruben pointed out that,
"Short of going to one year contracts, which would be a nightmare,
you can't ever get everything coincided so that it comes through at
the same time."
The FOP contract includes the sheriffs department
staff, deputies, corrections officers, jailers and employees at both
the Public Safety Complex and in the courthouse.
The FOP contract renewal date was Dec. 1, 2013.
During the Board of Whole meeting the topic was
discussed. Committee chair Rick Aylesworth handed the topic of the
FOP contract over to Sheriff Steve Nichols to explain what changes
were in this contract and to answer any questions.
In addition to Aylesworth, Nichols specifically
named Bill Martin and Bob Farmer in thanking the committee for how
well everything went, "These negotiations, and the last negotiations
were the smoothest. I think we finished up with the deputies and the
corrections in less than four hours. No attorney fees. We saved
Comparing the contract as it looked in 2002 to
today, the sheriff said that the county and the deputies have come
to middle ground. "Nobody has an advantage over either one, and
that's what we strive for. I feel good about it," he said.
In the negotiation, the sheriff explained that he is
the man in the middle. He must protect the county's interests.
"But, they (the employees) also work for me." He was satisfied with
how this contract turned out, "Right now, everybody's happy."
Primary points of change in the contract were raises
and the health insurance.
Nichols explained that in lieu of giving up
holidays, correctional officers would get an additional 1/4 percent
increase the second year of contract for 3 1/4 percent pay raise,
and an additional 1/2 percent increase on the third year for 3 1/2
percent pay raise.
Deputies took a 3% pay raise across the board each
of the three years of the contract.
The sheriff recalled that salaries for deputies had
been frozen at one point and were brought back up during the last
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Nichols also explained how the pay structure has
been changed to keep deputies. Often the county is an entry level
for deputies who stay just 18 months before advancing on to bigger
departments or the state police. There are now sizeable jumps to
entice the deputy to stay past the third year and get them to their
fifth year. "Most the people who stay five years are going to be
there the rest of their career," he said.
Corporals took just a half a percent increase across
the board; sergeants a 3 percent pay raise, and the rest of the
staff 3 percent pay raise.
The other change was to the language of the health
insurance. The last contract had paragraphs of detailed stipulations
between policy choices. In short, this contract simplified that
language and said that if there would be a substantial change in
health insurance, there could be renegotiation to bargain the
changes along with wages.
Corrections and maintenance pay toward their
insurance. Deputies have full coverage.
The intention is to allow the board to go out and
negotiate the best insurance rates. "But if it took their salary
increase, they would want to come back and negotiate," Nichols
said. "The language is equitable to both sides."
In answer to a compound question from Pat O'Neill
about how the county would handle increasing annual costs such as
health insurance in a three year contract, and the retroactive
salary increases; Nichols and Ruben both answered saying that the
pay increases, and to some degree, other increasing costs are
anticipated and the money is put aside for it.
The full board was present on Tuesday evening. The
board has 12 seats, but one is empty with the recent resignation of
Terry Carlton. FOP contract passed on Tuesday with 10 votes yes,
and one abstain from Andy Anderson.
[By JAN YOUNGQUIST]
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