County proposes sheriff’s contract

MALONE – Franklin County legislators have agreed to give sheriff’s office employees a raise.

The board voted 6-1 on Friday to approve a contract that will give sheriff’s office employees, such as deputies and jail guards, a 4 percent raise next year and a 4.5 percent raise in 2015. Sheriff’s office employees have yet to vote on the contract.

“I feel they deserve it,” said Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay. “They’ve received zeroes for 2012 and 2013, so if you do that over the life of a contract, it’s certainly not a 4 or 4.5 percent raise. The savings in the health insurance more than covers this raise.”

The contract would also move sheriff’s office employees to the county’s health plan, which offers incentives for using generic-brand prescription drugs.

“The only losers in this are prescription drug companies, and they can afford to lose a little,” Jones said.

Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, disagreed.

“Why I’m voting no against this is not because I don’t respect their position,” Maroun said. “We are going to save something on the health care, but there are some supervisors and some mayors that are going to be negotiating with other unions. The union reps are going to be looking at what we gave this union, this year, for this year and next year, and they’re going to say, ‘If you can give it to them, why can’t you give it to us?’ I think we’re making a mistake. Most unions around the North Country are not receiving this kind of salary increase, so I have to vote no.”

Maroun also reminded Jones that in 2012 Gov. Andrew Cuomo told them that he didn’t give his own employees a raise that year.

Legislator Tim Lashomb, D-Malone, said the raises need to be broken down over a four-year period to be properly understood.

“One of the things we’re forgetting, though, because we had an escape clause in the 2012 contract, is we negated a 3 percent raise, which should’ve come to them,” Lashomb said. “We took it away from them because of the financial times we were facing. In four years – zero, zero, 4, 4-and-a-half – if you figure that they should’ve gotten that 3 percent raise, and you subtract that from the 8.5 percent, that gives you a 5 percent raise over four years. Over four years, you divide that by four, and that’s 1.25 percent per year for four years.”

Legislator Tim Burpoe, D-Saranac Lake, agreed with Lashomb.

“I think that it’s something that we finally need to get off our plate,” Burpoe said. “We are entering the third year of no agreement, so I think it’s time we make a decision and stick with it. This is the best we can do, and more importantly, I think this is the best the sheriff’s union can do.”

The county and the sheriff’s office have been at odds since 2011, when county legislators revoked a 3-percent pay raise union members expected. The union members are still working under the 2011 contract.

The sheriff’s union employees shot down a proposed contract in September between the county and the United Public Service Employees Union, which represents sheriff’s office employees, that included a 2 percent raise retroactive to Aug. 21, another 2 percent raise next year and a 2.5 percent raise in 2015. It also included additional hazard pay of 20 cents an hour, also retroactive to Aug. 21. That incentive would have increased to 30 cents next year and gone to 35 cents in 2015.