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Groups seek raises for Pima County deputies
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Groups seek raises for Pima County deputies

Two law-enforcement organizations have teamed up to fight for pay increases they say many Pima County deputies and corrections officers were promised and are long overdue to receive.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Pima County Deputy Sheriff’s Association have been working with county officials to push for step increases, or pay raises based upon time of service.

“We’ve received pay increases, but every time we get one, the new hires start at the same pay,” said Costaki Manoleas, president of Fraternal Order of Police Pima Lodge 20.

Due to budgetary constraints, step increases stopped in July 2008.

“Everyone’s pay got adjusted in July 2007. There have been no step increases since then. But there have been raises given,” said administrative bureau chief Christopher Radtke. “To say they haven’t got a step is true, and in some cases the raise maybe worked out better than if they’d gotten a step.”

Although documents show that there have been several incremental raises since step increases stopped, they were given to all county employees.

“We’re at the bottom of the pay scale” for law-enforcement agencies in the state, said Kevin Kubitskey, vice-chairman of the Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy Association and a sergeant with PCSD.

“Deputies who were hired in 2008 were offered the step plan but have never received step pay,” he added. “They were enticed by what they’d be making in seven years, but that hasn’t happened.”

Starting pay for PCSD deputies and corrections officers is $43,370 a year. The-top paying agency in the state, the Tempe Police Department, starts its employees at $56,742.

The lack of promised step raises creates frustration for seven- and eight-year veterans who are seeing new recruits get hired at the same pay, said Manoleas, a sergeant who’s been with the department for 20 years.

“We’re starting to have people leave,” he said. “And it’s hard to lose these guys with years of knowledge.”

But this isn’t the first time this has happened to PCSD, Radtke said.

In the mid-2000s, employees started leaving at a high rate for departments that paid more money — including the Tucson Police Department. Deputies’ representatives presented the situation to the Board of Supervisors, which granted “decompression,” which caught everyone up on the pay scale. This time around, the board has so far denied requests for decompression.

“Our budget is an annual appropriation process, so there’s no guarantee for any future raises at any time for anyone,” said Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “They want to be treated differently than other county employees of any of the other 30 or 40 departments or agencies that we have, and they’re not.”

As a result of the situation, deputies and corrections officers have started to leave, Radtke said.

“As bad as it is, they’re not leaving in droves yet. I think they’re still hopeful; they’re hanging on,” he said. “But I do believe it’s going to get worse, because they’ll only hang on so long.”

Foreseeing this problem and knowing the board would need to see data in order to consider decompression, the department started tracking who has left for other agencies, where they went, and how much training they’ve had, Radtke said.

Since January 2013, 54 deputies have resigned from the department, 43 of who left to seek other employment.

Twenty-two of those 43 left specifically to work for other law-enforcement agencies.

A full list of agencies that deputies have left to work for was not available, but Radtke said some of the officers who’ve left recently went to Buckeye, Sahuarita and Oro Valley.

Since January, 16 officers have left PCSD for jobs with higher-paying law-enforcement agencies, Kubitskey said.

The department was unable to provide the number of deputies and corrections officers who were hired after the step freeze in 2008.

“It’s frustrating for me, because I think it’s a liability for the county to keep training new guys for unreasonable reasons and putting them out on the street with a lack of experience,” Manoleas said.

Simply replacing the officers who are leaving with new recruits will create a sizable gap in experience and isn’t saving the department any money, with training costs running at about $100,000 per deputy, he said.

Documents show that the department spent about $115 million on payroll in 2014, based on Radtke’s estimation that personnel account for 85 percent of the budget.

“We’re not asking for raises or for parity in pay to other agencies,” said Kubitskey, who’s been with the department for 16 years. “We just want to be moved up in the step plan that was promised to us.”

The incentive for experienced deputies to leave is likely to increase, as the Tucson Police Department is looking to add roughly 150 officers next year, Radtke said.

Huckelberry doesn’t think the sheriff will lose employees to TPD, mostly due to take-home vehicles and a higher retirement contribution by the county than the city.

Radtke feels differently.

“We do expect them to leave, and they are leaving,” he said. “On one hand it hurts us; on another hand it sends a message and hopefully someone listens and our guys get a pay raise because of it.”

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt

Star reporter Joe Ferguson contributed to this story.

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