Pima County sheriff's deputies are, for the most part, paid about the same as their counterparts in other Arizona jurisdictions, according to a new survey done by the county.
A three-page memo from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, in response to lobbying by deputies for larger raises than he has proposed, says county pay for law enforcement is relatively similar to the pay of officers working in Tucson and Phoenix, as well as in Maricopa, Pinal and Yuma counties.
Next year's proposed budget has a 1 percent across-the-board pay increase for all county employees starting on July 1, with an additional 2 percent pay increase starting on Jan. 1. Deputies will also get, on average, a $1,000 one-time bonus, as well as an increase in their uniform allowance.
A counterproposal from the Pima County Deputy Sheriff Association would cost the county $3.7 million annually.
The figure, Joe Cameron, president of the union, explains, represents what deputies would be making if the county had not suspended pay raises five years ago for most employees.
But Huckelberry wrote that other governments have faced similar struggles making ends meet. As a result, he said, "the average sheriff's deputy annual pay, excluding overtime, shift differential, special-assignment pay or uniform allowance, is comparable to the city of Tucson and Maricopa County."
One jurisdiction that does pay better than Pima County, according to a more detailed assessment prepared by the county human resources staff, is the city of Phoenix, which has slightly better salaries but is not in a position to hire new personnel.
Supporters of higher raises for deputies have suggested the pay issue could push some trained officers to apply elsewhere, leaving Pima County to pick up the cost of hiring and training new, less experienced, deputies.
One county analysis suggests it costs roughly $430,000 for the county to train and equip a new deputy over a five-year period.
If the county loses just nine deputies in the next fiscal year, Cameron argued, it would cover the entire cost of the pay raises the union is seeking.
"It is actually going to cost them more in the long run," he said.
Huckelberry said he doesn't see that happening, at least not over the pay issue, since the county compares favorably "at most levels to most of the surveyed agencies with the exception of the city of Phoenix."
And the fact Phoenix pays better "can probably be attributed to the hiring freeze that the city of Phoenix has been under since 2008, which limits the infusion of lower-paid law enforcement officers," another county memo says.
"Phoenix has been on a hiring freeze for police recruits/offIcers since 2008. This explains the relatively high average actual salary identified in the attachment. Their budget office indicates this hiring freeze is likely to remain in effect through 2015 or 2016," it says.
Cameron is trying to remain optimistic that a compromise can be found with only a few weeks until the start of the new fiscal year.
"Guys are trying to raise a family and it is hard," Cameron said.
Many deputies in his 300-person organization are now making less than they were several years ago, when the increased cost of living is factored in, he said.
"We haven't asked for any (raises for the last few years). We understood that the economy wasn't good," he said.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to sign off on the proposed budget during its June 18 meeting.
"The average sheriff's deputy annual pay, excluding overtime, shift differential, special-assignment pay or uniform allowance, is comparable to the city of Tucson and Maricopa County."
Chuck Huckelberry, Pima County administrator
Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346.