Deputy file

Deputy Jordan Haueter, right, shows K-9 Officer Mattis to a group of fascinated youngsters at the 2018 Columbia County Fair.

The ratification of a three-year contract with 36 union-represented Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies will cost the county $198,000 from the county’s contingency fund.

But after years of negotiation, and an impasse settled by mediation, the patrol deputies, patrol sergeants and detective sergeants represented by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association are now working with a current contract.

The County Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to ratify a contract for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – a pact that the deputies, who are the county’s only remaining union-represented employees, had previously ratified.

The contract’s main feature is a 2.25 percent across-the-board wage increase for each of the three years.

The contract also includes changes in the way detective sergeants are paid for being on call during weekends. Corporation Counsel Joseph Ruf said the contract calls for a flat on-call fee of $175, and does away with a complex formula for computing the pay.

The County Board’s ratification vote was followed by a unanimous vote on a resolution to transfer $198,000 from the contingency fund to the sheriff’s office personnel fund to cover the contract’s cost.

Ruf said that amount represents the full cost of back pay for all of 2018 and part of this year, and pay increases for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020.

That takes into account wages, Social Security and retirement costs, he said.

The County Board’s Human Resources Committee recently received, from the county’s accounting department, an estimate of the costs of back pay alone — $100,113.

The union-represented officers had been working under a one-year contract ratified in 2017 while negotiations continued on a new pact.

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Negotiation on the current contract began in June 2017.

Impasses resulted in two mediation sessions, in which a Madison-based mediator, Sue Bauman, proposed the contract that both the represented officers and the county ratified.

The county’s initial offer was a one-year contract, with an across-the-board raise of 1 percent – the same across-the-board raise given to most of the county’s 500-plus employees, whose compensation is determined by a job classification and wage scale, based on job descriptions.

Negotiating on the county’s behalf were County Board Chairman Vern Gove, First Vice Chairman Dan Drew, Second Vice Chairman James Foley and Supervisor Adam Field.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association had originally asked for a multi-year contract with a 3 percent across-the-board increase in each year. The county has traditionally asked for, and gotten, a one-year pact, due to uncertainty about the budget from year to year.

Although the sworn officers got a higher percentage increase than other county employees, the pay scale for non-union (and non-elected) county employees includes longevity-based “step” increases of about 2.5 percent on an employee’s hiring anniversary, annually in the first six years and every other year after that. In effect, a county employee who got a “step” increase received a pay hike of 3.5 percent.

The deputies’ and sergeants’ contract (which does not affect jailers, dispatchers, sheriff’s officer administrative personnel and other non-sworn employees) also includes longevity-based steps, but on a different schedule than that of other employees.

Bruce Rashke, chairman of the Human Resources Committee, has characterized the wage levels resulting from the contract as neither at the top nor at the bottom, when compared with those of other area law enforcement agencies.

And Ruf on Wednesday characterized the pact as “pretty bare-bones.”

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde or contact her at 608-745-3587.

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