County supervisors expressed their difficulty in deciding whether to approve a request for a 10-percent increase, one pay range, for certified positions in the Sheriff’s Office at the Wednesday, Nov. 2, Yavapai County board meeting.
They all agree with Sheriff Scott Mascher that recruitment and retention of Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) deputies is a big concern. The department loses officers to other law enforcement entities across the state that pay more.
On the other hand, to cover the pay increase will cost the county $1.03 million per year. The supervisors did not plan on this in the budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Supervisor Chip Davis, who opposed the request, said his role as supervisor includes budget and policy, adding this increase will impact the budget severely.
“We have contingency money to be available for things like unexpected capital cases, natural disasters, a hard winter with more snow plow use, and federal changes,” Davis said. “This will impact that fund. The county has to realize that in the next six months if anything catastrophic happens, we’ve blown the budget.”
YCSO currently has 19 unfilled shifts on the patrol schedule. Nine new recruits will graduate the academy in December, then begin a half-year training program before they can hit the streets independently in mid-April, Mascher said. In addition, 10 deputy sheriff positions are vacant and will require the next recruitment and training process before being able to work independently by October 2017.
In order to keep an adequate number of first responders on patrol, he has reassigned deputies from specialty divisions including Criminal Investigations, Narcotics Unit, K-9, and Forest Patrol. Since January 2014, the department has lost 16 people in lateral moves to other employment.
“I’m concerned if I wait, I’ll lose five, six or eight more,” Mascher said. “We’re not getting any laterals (from other agencies). Nobody wants to move to make less money.”
In his research, Mascher discovered YCSO is the lowest or near the bottom of pay schedules out of 12 Arizona cities, towns and counties. An increase of one pay range would bring positions to mid-range, he said, although he wished he could ask for more.
“The county saved money because of the vacancies we had. That rolled over into the general fund. I’m hoping you would look at that,” he told the supervisors.
Davis acknowledged that unless every agency stopped competing with each other and increasing pay or offering bonuses, this would continue to be an issue in the future.
Stating his support of Mascher’s request, Board Chairman Jack Smith said he thought a 12 percent increase would be a little better.
“It will slow the bleeding, but it won’t stop it,” Smith said.
Human Resources Director Wendy Ross said she looked at turnover rates and found so far this year, the Sheriff’s Office had twice as many certified staff leaving than all of the past year. Some were due to retirement, she said. But then what happens is the people below move up and that leaves the deputy positions vacant.
Supervisor Rowle Simmons reported that Bagdad-Yarnell district was short two deputies out of the normal five assigned. With fewer deputies on patrol, the response time for backup help increases, especially in the more rural areas of the county.
Mascher agreed, saying the response time could be as long as an hour. “My deputies are my first priority,” he said.
The board voted 4-1, with Davis opposing, to approve the raise, effective Jan. 1, 2017. The pay increase affects only sworn, certified officers, not correctional staff or dispatch.