Orange County sheriff’s deputies will receive an 8.8 percent raise over the next three years, costing taxpayers an extra $62.2 million over that time, after county supervisors unanimously approved a new union contract at a special meeting Tuesday.
The agreement distributes the raise over five upticks, which occur nearly every six months. It also grants deputies a one-time, lump-sum payment equal to 0.5 percent of their base salary.
The county will pay $37 million of the salary increase over the next three years, while payments from contract cities, state funds and federal grants are expected to cover the remaining $25 million, according to county documents.
County staff and Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, both framed the raise as a way to stay competitive with other law enforcement departments so that the Sheriff’s Department can attract and retain qualified employees.
“This is the first increase in take-home pay that our members have seen since 2008,” said Kimberly Edds, spokeswoman for the union, which represents more than 1,900 deputies and 100 District Attorney investigators.
Deputies received pay raises in 2015 and again in May, but Edds said those pay increases came in exchange for deputies assuming full payment of their employee contributions to their pensions in July 2015. That change resulted in deputies taking less money home, she said. Union members pay between 15.8 percent and 20.9 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, Edds said.
Edds praised another portion of the contract that increases tuition reimbursement from $2,000 to $3,000 annually for officers taking college courses or other educational programs. She said having a more educated force reduces liability over time.
The sheriff’s union sued Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and the department in February, saying that staff reductions, unsafe jail conditions and operational missteps allowed three county jail inmates to escape in January.
In June, a sheriff’s commander and a department spokesman revealed that deputies violated department policy by failing to search contractors who worked in the jail or inventory the potentially dangerous tools they carried in and out of the facility.