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County employees agree to pay cut

POSTED November 8, 2011 7:44 p.m.

Seven of 12 Stanislaus County labor unions will take 6 percent pay reduction, after labor groups voluntarily returned to the negotiating table to help the county make ends meet in tough economic times.

The agreement, due to take effect July 1, 2012, will replace an expiring agreement which saw employees agree to an effective 5 percent pay cut.

“We greatly appreciate you working with us during these trying times,” said Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Monteith on Tuesday, as the board accepted the agreements.

Without the salary savings, Stanislaus County projected a $16.5 million deficit in the 2012-2013 fiscal year – after the use of $9.2 million in savings, according to Nancy Bronstein, county deputy executive officer. Currently, 53 percent of the county’s General Fund budget is devoted to salary and benefits.

“It became apparent additional salary savings were needed,” Bronstein said.

In the past, the county has attempted to rein in those costs by reducing retirement benefits for new hires, freezing vacant positions, cutting temporary workers, limiting cash-outs of vacation pay, and reductions in force.

In a major cost savings measure conducted in 2010, the county negotiated a voluntary, temporary 5 percent pay deduction with all county unions. That agreement is due to expire June 30, 2012, creating the deficit surge in the 12-13 year.

The new 6 percent pay reduction will come from employees’ base pay, further reducing retirement costs and payroll taxes.

Additionally, the agreement will see employees receive six days of special accrued leave time – unable to be cashed out, and usable only on approved days – a reduction from the 13 days of SALT in the current agreement. Those SALT days may be reduced as the county restores pay, should the economy recover.

The agreements amount to $4.5 million in annual savings for the county. The agreement will expire June 30, 2014.

“They’re taking ownership by taking these cuts,” said Supervisor Terry Withrow. “Everyone’s buying in to what it is we have to do here, as painful as it is.”

The new agreement will apply to the Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association, Stanislaus County Deputy Probation Officers’ Association, Stanislaus County Probation Correction Officers’ Association, Stanislaus Regional Emergency Dispatchers’ Association, Stanislaus County Sheriff Supervisors’ Association, Stanislaus County Sheriff Management Association, and Stanislaus County District Attorney Investigators’ Association. Unrepresented employees will be included as well. Negotiations are ongoing with other labor groups.

As a show of solidarity, Stanislaus County Sheriff-Coroner Adam Christianson volunteered to take a further 4 percent salary deduction, on top of the 6 percent salary deduction.

“It doesn’t go unseen,” said Supervisor Vito Chiesa of Christianson’s action. “We appreciate it.”

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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